'Things are not good in Baghdad'

Via Riverbend, "the girl blogger in Iraq," comes a heartbreaking account of the destruction of the mosque in Samarra. When she says "I don’t think I remember things being this tense," you prick up.

With so many mosques and other structures destroyed regularly there's a danger of normalizing it and forgetting that some have greater historical, spiritual significance than others. Like the Askari Mosque in the sacred city of Samarra, capital of the Abassid Empire, whose name means, "a joy for all to see."

According to Riverbend,


"Askari Mosque... is important because it is believed to be the burial place of two of the 12 Shia Imams- Ali Al-Hadi and Hassan Al-Askari (father and son) who lived and died in Samarra. The site of the mosque is believed to be where Ali Al-Hadi and Hassan Al-Askari lived and were buried. Many Shia believe Al-Mahdi 'al muntadhar' will also be resurrected or will reappear from this mosque."
It's only a rough analogy but imagine if the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the purported burial site of Jesus, or some other structure with great religious significance were destroyed...

After an elaborate description of a visit to the mosque some years earlier which elicited the "feeling of utter peace," Riverbend describes the bombing and its aftermath. It's worth reposting (and reading) in full:
We woke up this morning to news that men wearing Iraqi security uniforms walked in and detonated explosives, damaging the mosque almost beyond repair. It’s heart-breaking and terrifying. There has been gunfire all over Baghdad since morning. The streets near our neighborhood were eerily empty and calm but there was a tension that had us all sitting on edge. We heard about problems in areas like Baladiyat where there was some rioting and vandalism, etc. and several mosques in Baghdad were attacked. I think what has everyone most disturbed is the fact that the reaction was so swift, like it was just waiting to happen.
All morning we’ve been hearing/watching both Shia and Sunni religious figures speak out against the explosions and emphasise that this is what is wanted by the enemies of Iraq- this is what they would like to achieve- divide and conquer. Extreme Shia are blaming extreme Sunnis and Iraq seems to be falling apart at the seams under foreign occupiers and local fanatics.
No one went to work today as the streets were mostly closed. The situation isn’t good at all. I don’t think I remember things being this tense- everyone is just watching and waiting quietly. There’s so much talk of civil war and yet, with the people I know- Sunnis and Shia alike- I can hardly believe it is a possibility. Educated, sophisticated Iraqis are horrified with the idea of turning against each other, and even not-so-educated Iraqis seem very aware that this is a small part of a bigger, more ominous plan…
Several mosques have been taken over by the Mahdi militia and the Badir people seem to be everywhere. Tomorrow no one is going to work or college or anywhere.
People are scared and watchful. We can only pray. (Baghdad Burning)

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