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February 11, 2013, Monday

Muslim Brotherhood back in Iraq

The turmoil in Iraq is not settling down. Sunni Arabs continuously hold protests, arguing that they have become second-class citizens in Iraq and that they have been removed from the political, social and economic life of Iraq. The reactionary and unplanned demonstrations have turned into an organized resistance.

In present day Iraq, the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood is trying to create an official body separate from the Iraqi Islamic Party established by the Sunni Arabs. Since 2003, the Iraqi Islamic Party has only been involved in politics. For this reason, the Muslim Brotherhood filed an official application in order to become eligible for non-political activities in Iraq. The Brotherhood has already been organized in all the provinces of Iraq including Mosul, Anbar, Basra and the Azamiye district of Baghdad. A 78-member of Advisory Council has been set up, an executive body of five members chosen from the council membership, and a president was elected. Within the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Administration, the Muslim Brotherhood has a separate organizational structure; the Kurdistan Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) is an extension of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood. They want to open an office in Istanbul as well.

The Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood does not have organizational ties with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. It is obvious, however, that they hold similar goals and views on a variety of matters.

The Muslim Brotherhood that has been active in Iraq since 1941 is one of the oldest organizations in the country. Muhammad Mahmud Sayyaf, who was from Iraq and studied in Egypt, became the first leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq. In the 1950s, the Brotherhood then opened new branches in Karbala, Najaf, Divaniye and other predominantly Shiite areas, as well. In 1949 and 1950, the Brotherhood sought official recognition, however, the request was denied because it was considered an extension of a foreign organization. In 1954, the Iraqi Islam Association, created by the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Emcet Izzavi was shut down.

In 1960, Muhammad Mahmud Sayyaf migrated to Saudi Arabia and he was replaced by Abdulkerim Zeydan as the new leader of the Brotherhood. In 1961, the Islamic Party of Iraq was established, but the party was banned during the term of Abd al-Karim Qasim and their leader was arrested. Despite this, in 1960s, the Muslim Brotherhood was an important power in Iraq. The Baath Party wanted to bring the Brotherhood over to its side after it came to power in 1968, and to this end it offered them two cabinet ministry appointments. Abdul Karim Zeidan was appointed to one of these positions without his knowledge but subsequently rejected it. The Baath Party executed a group of military officers who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1969 in an attempt to eliminate the organization, and in 1971, all its leaders but Zeidan were arrested. The organization then went underground.

In 1991, after Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait and started to lose power both within and outside of Iraq, he adopted an Islamic discourse. The Muslim Brotherhood seized on this dialogue and began to intensify its activities. This approach led to the Brotherhood becoming more influential in Iraq, and it formed the Iraqi Islamic Party branch of the Brotherhood in 2003. The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the first elections held in January 2005, but decided to join the elections in held in December 2005. Some of the Sunni Arabs participated in the elections under the Tawafuq Party (the Iraqi Accord Front) led by the Iraqi Islamic Party, which won 44 seats in the elections and five cabinet ministry posts. In the March 2010 elections, the Iraqi Islamic Party was left off of the al-Iraqiya List, and consequently, they won only six seats.

The Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood is separate from al-Qaeda, the Iraqi Islamic State, the Islamic Unification Movement (IUM, better known as Al-Tawhid) and the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), as well as other armed groups. The Brotherhood does not hold that violence is a solution because violence could create chaos due to the involvement of big foreign powers' intelligence agencies. A political environment where non-violent groups could be active would be the best solution for Iraq.

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