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qiyam

The Karbala Narrative and the Syrian Civil War

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Hey all,

I'm doing research on how (Shia) Muslims perceive the Karbala narrative in relation to the Syrian Civil War. I've seen that there are already many threads that mention Yazid and Husayn in relation to the Syrian Civil War, but I want to see if its possible to start an organized discussion about this topic. What I am interested in is:

  1. How do you understand, perceive and explain the events at Karbala? Often the Karbala narrative is analysed by researchers as a narrative about: ''What is right versus wrong, belief versus disbelief, and the oppressed versus the oppressor, faith against brute force. Karbala was about standing in the face of oppression, regardless no matter the cost''. Is this definition correct to you?
    1. Hamid Dabashi notes: Yazid is the personification of evil and injustice in the Shi’i historical memory’ while Hossein ''represents the ideal type: a revolutionary hero who revolts against zulm (tyranny)'' (Hamid Dabashi, A religion of protest (2011))
  2. How do you perceive the story of Karbala in relation to the Syrian Civil War? Is it a conflict between right and wrong, as often displayed in the media? Do you perceive it as a revolution by the oppressed versus an oppressor? Is it right to compare Assad to Yazid or Assad to Husayn, and if so; does it even matter?
  3. What is your opinion on politicians using the Karbala narrative in the Syrian Civil War? Do you agree with them, is it correct to use it this way, and does it influence your perception of the war?
    1. Political actors in the Syrian Civil War have evoked the narrative as following
      1. ‘We need to prevent another Karbala from happening’ - Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader in late 2011
      2. ‘We are facing monsters, the grandsons of Yazid and Muawiyah, and the grandsons of those who carried out the Karbala massacres – and today they want to repeat them’ - Akram al-Kaabi from Iraqi Ḥaraka Ḥizballāh an-Nujabā in a speech for Iraqi militia troops in Aleppo late 2016
      3. ‘What is happening in Syria is similar to what happened in Karbala, but the oppressed and the oppressors are different’ -Turkish president Recip Erdogan at Arab Awakening conference in Istanbul 2012
      4. ‘Karbala is in Aleppo this year, and the infant of Imam Hussain is under the rubble of its houses’ - Subhi al-Tufayli, formal leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah-movement, at Friday sermon in Beirut 2016

 

I think its only fair to give some info on myself and on why I am doing this research. Lets start with saying I'm Dutch and not religious. First time I encountered Shiism and the story of Hussain was when I was young and playing with my Lebanese (shia) friends. After my trip to Iran in 2014 and speaking to many Iranians, I found the story of Husayn very interesting and I continued to do more research on how the story and life of Hussain became so influential in the collective memory of Iranian Muslims. This research can be read here, but note its in Dutch; https://www.academia.edu/26035771/Labbayk_YaHussain_collective_Muharram-rituals_the_conversion_of_Iran_by_the_Safavids_and_the_creation_of_a_Iranian_identity_Dutch_ 

Thank you already for taking time and reading (and thinking about this) and possibly already for contributing to this discussion, I'm looking forward to hear of you!

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Although loosely related, there are other, more archetypal readings of the Karbala narrative that rely less on modernist notions of revolution, social justice, and identity-politics. This may be helpful to you:

 

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