BAQR AL-HAKIM, Mohammed

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim (Najaf –Iraq-, 1939) was son of the late Agha Muhsin Al-Hakim, who was the leader of the Shiite world in the period 1955-1970.

He was a co-founder of the Islamic political movement in Iraq established in the 1950s (Daawa). In 1972 Ayatollah Al-Hakim was arrested by the Baathist regime. He was re-arrested in 1977 and sentenced to live imprisonment by special court without any trial. He was released in July 1979. Ayatollah Al-Hakim left Iraq in 1980, following the outburst of the Iraq-Iran war.

In 1982 Ayatollah Al-Hakim played a prominent role in the establishment of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (SCIRI), becoming its leader in 1986. As a reaction against Al-Hakim political activity, Saddam Hussein’s regime arrested 125 members of his family in 1983 (about 25 of them were executed). In Iran he founded the Badr brigade, (SCIRI’s armed wing) a militia with an estimated 8,000-15,000 soldiers. This body had been armed and commanded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to fight in the Iraq-Iran war.

In 1991, US President Bush had encouraged a Shiite rebellion against Saddam Hussein regime but once it outburst, he didn’t back it up. The rebellion was brutally suppressed and tens of thousands were believed slaughtered in Iraq’s south.

Ayatollah Al-Hakim returned from his 23 years exile in Iran on the 12th of May 2003. His arrival to the holy city of Najaf was acclaimed by thousands of Shia Muslims. However, his leadership of the Shiite community was contested, notably by members of the Sadra group. This group represent radical trend named after the Ayatollah Sadeq al-Sadr –assassinated in 1999, supposedly by Saddam Hussein agents- and leaded by his son, Muqtada al-Sadr.

Ayatollah al-Hakim arose some worries regarding a possible claim for Iranian style regime, he had rejected in several occasions religious extremism. Since he returned from exile, he had distanced himself from the ruling clerics in Iran. He had advocated for a modern Islamic state, rejected religious extremism, favored free elections in the country and envisaged a federal state that would recognize the country’s different cults and ethnies.

Ayatollah Al-Hakim was opposed to the US occupation of Iraq (the SCIRI had boycotted the first US-sponsored meeting of Iraqi factions on 15 April 2003). Yet, he was as pragmatic as to refuse the US occupation in Iraq without confronting it and even agreeing to be part of the US-formed government. His brother Abdel Aziz, is the SCIRI representative of the provisional governing council.

Al-Hakim died in a massive car bomb blast in the city of Najaf on the 29th August 2003 following the sermon for Friday prayers (more than 80 people died in the attack and some 250 were injured). Suspicion was directly put on loyalists to Saddam Hussein regime and non-Iraqi Sunni Islamists (or an unnatural alliance of both). Four men were arrested in connection with the bombing, two of them members of the former regime and two Saudi Arabians.