Sunnis and Shiites cooperate to protect loved ones in Baghdad

Published February 15th, 2006 - 08:05 GMT

"When you're protecting your loved ones, there are no religious differences," said Baghdad's Hassan Baduk.


In recent weeks, Baduk and other Iraqis have put aside their religious and political differences to take their security into their own hands where security personnel have failed.


 Baduk is currently serving as a leader of one of several special committees established by ordinary Iraqi citizens to protect themselves and their families, according to IRIN. Some 350 men from seven Baghdad districts came together to form informal security committees and organize eight-hour shifts to ensure security.


The men alternate positions throughout the day, checking suspicious vehicles and individuals at dozens of check-points which they have erected on behalf of themselves and their loved ones.


The move comes in response to ongoing cases of kidnapping and robberies in the capital, which prompted a series of meetings between rival Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders as well Baghdad's Christian community leaders.


"We had to choose between waiting for robbers to enter our houses and going out in the streets and protecting ourselves," said Ahmed Salam, a resident of the Hay Al Adel district in Baghdad.


Many Baghdadi residents see the move as a welcomed sign of hope for their security in light of the relatively small number of police forces patrolling the city's streets.


"Rarely do we see a police car on our streets," said Baduk. "And when we do, they drive by so fast we don't have time to ask for help."


"The situation is much worse at night, because there are no police patrols in some areas," he added.


Iraqi police, who have been the target of incessant attacks by resistance fighters, agree that they cannot fill the security need of Baghdad's citizens.

"It's very difficult to provide security…the salaries are too little compared to the risks we have to take," said Baghdad police officer Adnan Ala'a.


"Sometimes you leave the house with the impression you won't return," he added.


Hundreds of police officers have resigned as a result of continued attacks on them.


The Iraqi government, however, is worried that despite the committees' good intentions, forming vigilante groups could lead to possible internal fighting in the future.



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