I was surfing the net as usual to find out what’s happening in the world, as I rely mainly on the net instead of TV now When I came across this article by Dr Juan Cole that made me feel ashamed of myself. This man who doesn’t live in Iraq seems to know more about the history of Iraq than I do. In his article he was criticizing the westerns, journalists in particular, for making judgments without knowing much about Iraq’s history, which I must admit is true.
He also provide a link to another article by a professor of Arab studies in the university of Colombia and use it as a reference to back up his theory. What Dr. Cole was trying to tell us, as you can see in his article, is that Fallujah is celebrated in Iraq’s history as a symbol for the large rebellion/revolution against the British back in 1920. His source, Dr. Rasheedi goes as far as considering Fallujah the start point of that event and says in his article:
“To restore Iraq to their control, the British used massive air power, bombing indiscriminately. That city is now called Fallujah.”
After reading the two honored professors’ articles I scratched my head vigorously (I’m sure I looked stupid because I felt so!) trying to remember my country’s history as I read it in school. Well, my memory is not that strong to help me remember all those poets and decorated writings about our ancestor’s bravery that I read in the fifth grade, but I sure do remember the only Iraqi movie that was produced about that rebellion. The director of the movie used a huge budget (Iraqi standards) and hired some British actors including Oliver Reed. He (the director)was rewarded generously By Saddam for showing the truth about that historical event.
In the movie, Shiek Dhari who’s mentioned in Dr. Rashhed’s article was the hero. It seemed that the movie was about him not the “revolution”. So anyway everything looked ok and my mind regained its peace, as everything the two well-informed professors said seemed to match perfectly with what Saddam’s hired director sowed us in his movie! And my face stopped looking stupid anymore!
However, this lasted only for few seconds, as soon after that some naughty brain cells in my head started a rebellion that soon became as massive as the 1920 revolution (compared to my head size) and kept bugging me, “that’s not what you hear from people! That’s not what you heard from your father, grandfather, and tribesmen from Mousl to Basra!”. There’s one thing no one can beat Arabs in, and that’s knowing their ancestors’ history. Any arab dedicated to his tribe knows almost everyone in his tribe and most other large tribes for generations, especially when it comes to important people related to important events.
But the unofficial story is not only told on the streets and in tribes’ gatherings, but it was documented by the most respected and objective historians in Iraq. One of the most well-known and honored historians that came into my mind at that moment was the late Dr.” Ali Al Wardi”. He was a remarkable sociologist and considered by most as the best ever in Iraq and the Arab world but he was also a great historian when it comes to Iraq’s modern history. He wrote a series of books about the modern history of Iraq that is indispensable to anyone who wants to know the development of modern Iraq and the conflict between beduin and civil culture in Iraq that started long ago but was at its peak following WW1. His series are titled “Lamahat Ijtima’ayah min Tarikh Il Iraq Il Hadeeth” or “Sociological Glimpses from the Modern History of Iraq”.
In the 5th part, Al Wardi talks about the 1920 rebellion for about 700 pages; the events, the tribes that took part in it, the clerics role, rumors, feelings...Etc. He also mentioned Fallujah and Sheik Dhari in that part and talked about them for long 7 pages! What Al Wardi wrote in his book and what all Iraqis know is that the rebellion started in Rumaitha near Samawa, by She’at tribes, namely by Sha’alan Abu Al Jon leader of Al Dhuwalim tribe who was a She’at with help from grand She’at clerics who issued a Jihad Fatwa against the British. Only later the rebellion spread to involve most of Iraq including the areas near Fallujah. Moreover, Fallujah actually was never bombed and it was under the control of the British army all the time! Sheik Dhari’s hometown, Khan Al Nukta was half the way on the road between Baghdad and Fallujah and he had no control on any part of it!
Here are some short paragraphs that I translated from his book regarding how the revolution started after an unpleasant meeting between Sha’alan and lieutenant Hiyat (sp?) the governor of Rumaitha that failed to solve the accumulating problems between the British and the tribes there especially after the British decided to remove grand Ayetullah Mohammed Taki Al Sherazi outside Iraq:
Miss Bill said that Sha’alan was very rude to the degree that Hiyat had to arrest him.* After that Sha’alan men attacked the sarai (palace) and killed two cups and freed Sha’alan..
After Sha’alan returned to his tribe he gathered them and said, “Do you accept to serve your infidel enemy that hates Arab and Muslims?” and they answered, “Allahu Akbar! By God no!” after that he asked them to ruin the railway that pass in their lands and reward each one with a golden Dinar for each peace of wood, and then men and women hurried to rip off the wood from the railway and bring it to him..
And that was the beginning of the revolution.
And here’s some of what Al Wardi wrote about Fallujah and Sheik Dhari’s and his tribe, Al Zoba’a, role:
Zoba’a tribe resides near Khan Al Nukta that lies half the way between Baghdad and Fallujah, and it belong to Shimmar tribe that came from the western borders in a late era and that’s why it still preserve its beduin values.
The great victory that the rebels in middle Euphrates (used to describe the are of Hilla, Diwanyia and Samwa) achieved had a huge impact allover Iraq and the rebels sent delegations to the tribes’ Sheiks in Fallujah and Mhmoodiya to urge them to join. Some of them responded like Sheik Kudair chief of Al Janabyeen and Sheik Alwan chief of Albu Muhia.
Where was Sheikh Dhari, Saddam’s hero at that time? Al Wardi says:
The English assigned a monthly salary for Sheikh Dhari, 750 roupyiah (Indian currency) as part of their policy to assure the loyalty of tribes’ Sheiks and kept giving him this salary until early 1918 then they cut it off...
When the revolution started in June 1920 the English felt it was necessary to pay Dhari again but they made his salary only 500 roupiyah but it seemed it was too late.
There are many stories about why Dhari revolted in Al Wardi's book but it can be summerised in that one of those days, and after the revolution had already started and after a fight with colonel Lichman, the English governor- who used to insult Dhari and embarrass him all the time- Dhari couldn’t take it anymore and ordered one of his son and guards to kill Lichman when he was not well guarded.
It’s worth mentioning that Fallujah these days is a mixture of people who belong to different tribes but the dominating one is Al Dulaim tribe which also dominates most of Anbar governerate and that’s why Al Anbar governerate with other parts near it was named officially before “Al Dulaim’s province”
Al Wardi wrote also:
Sheik Ali Al Sulaiman, head of Al Dulaim tribes wrote to Dhari saying: “me and my tribes do not intend to participate with you in the revolution against the English no matter what it cost me, and I give you 24 hours to get out of Al Dulaim lands with your tribe. If you want to fight the English you can go to Baghdad and fight them there, or else I’ll be your enemy after those 24 hours and will fight you”.
After this warning Dhari had to go back to his land in Al Nukta Khan.
Then Al Wardi write quoting Major Haldane:
Zouba’a’s revolution resulted in isolating our troops in Fallujah and Ramadi from Baghdad, although these troops are well equipped, and Major Edi did an impressive job in preserving peace there.*
So you can see how conflicting all these info with what the two professors had provided; No revolution inside Fallujah, no bombing at all and not even the leading role they described for the tribes near Fallujah in the revolution that magically turned to be inside Fallujah in their posts. However I agree that history is kind of repeating itself, only with reversed roles. This times it’s some of the Sunnis tribes that are making the mistake of opposing, or better say not doing enough against those who oppose the change.
Anyway, I don’t know which is worse; that the two experts in Arb world didn’t know about Dr. Al Wardi and his writings or that they knew but chose Sadam’s version of Iraq’s history!?
*Haldane (Insurrections In Mesopotamia)-Edinburgh 1922-p 73-74
*Haldane (Insurrection In Mesopotamia)-Edinburgh 1922-p 171-172
Sorry, I couldn't find a link to the book, but I guess you have to pay to get them. Still, anyone interested can google Al Wardi and can get some info. on him, except the "informed" ones of course!