Iraq has largely closed down for the celebration of Eid al-Adha. In the rest of the Muslim world, this is often an occasion for amnesties for prisoners, and in some places in Iraq, there have been goodwill measures of this kind too, including in the Kurdish federal region.
However, from Dhi Qar in the far south, a worrying message of a very different kind was sent out on the eve of the holiday. On Monday, the governorate council voted to stop the process of giving back 170 persons their jobs in the educational sector after they had first been subjected to de-Baathification but later cleared by the accountability and justice board in Baghdad. The decision to stop the process was communicated by Latif Sayhud, a Daawa member also known as Abu Ahmad al-Hashimi. Although Sayhud is known to have been in conflict with Maliki in the past, the provincial council in Dhi Qar is dominated politically by an alliance reminiscent of the new National Alliance that is now in the lead in forming the next Iraqi government, with Daawa, the Sadrists and the Jaafari breakaway faction of the Daawa in central roles. It should be added that the sheer magnitude of the numbers involved in this Shiite-majority governorate strongly suggests that this is an intra-Shiite affair between Shiites who worked for the previous regime and Shiites who joined Islamist groups, whether in exile or in Iraq.
Another worrying aspect relates of course to the quasi-federalism that is gradually emerging in multiple Iraqi governorates south of Baghdad. Governorates in places like Najaf and Basra have already discovered they have a power to legislate on the sale of alcohol. In Wasit they have gone further by imposing male guards on every female member of the provincial council! During the previous upsurge of de-Baathification in February, most governorate councils in the south confined themselves to implementing wild interpretations of the national legislation on the subject; today, the obvious fear is that with the continued tendency towards ever greater fragmentation of the Iraqi institutions of government, also de-Baathification could in the future become an area where governorates will seek to push their own ideas about “accountability and justice”.