Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Ansar al-Islam (AI, "Partisans of Islam"), an Islamist (Muslim political) insurgent group based primarily north of Baghdad, released the second issue of a written commemoration of its members who have been "martyred," Men of Sincerity: Martyrs of Kirkuk. Included is a qasidah, a praise poem with its roots in pre-Islamic Arabia (see Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych's standard study of the adaptation of the qasidah after the coming of Islam in the seventh century, The Poetics of Islamic Legitimacy).
AI was founded in Iraqi Kurdistan by Mullah Krekar (Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin), an Iraqi Kurd, in late 2001, reportedly with financial and logistical support from al-Qa'ida Central. The group drew on members of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, a party opposed to the secular socialism of Iraqi Kurdistan's dominant political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PatrioticUnion of Kurdistan. Much of Iraqi Kurdish society is much more traditionally conservative with regard to religion and social practices than the elites in the KDP and PUK. The presence of AI was one of the justifications used by the U.S. presidential administration of George W. Bush for invading Iraq in order to remove Saddam Husayn and the Iraqi Ba'th Party from power. It was argued that this "proved" Husayn was hosting a group linked to al-Qa'ida Central. AI, however, was not based in Ba'th-controlled Iraq but in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.
Shortly after the American and British-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, AI was targeted by the U.S. air force and militiamen (Peshmerga) of the KDP and PUK, and its members were uprooted from their bases in northern Iraq. In late 2003, Krekar was replaced as AI leader by Abu 'Abdullah al-Shafi'i. Krekar was in exile in Norway and then under house arrest. AI maintained a strong presence near the border of Iraqi Kurdistan with the rest of Iraq, near the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. In 2003, a large segment of its members formed a "new" group, Ansar al-Sunnah (AS, "Partisans of Tradition"). AS and several other small insurgent groups reformed as AI in the autumn of 2007. Although its origins were in the Iraqi Kurdish Islamist movement, AI currently is believed to have both Iraqi Kurdish and Arab members. It was and remains one of the largest and most potent of the insurgent groups operating in Iraq. It did not join the "Islamic State of Iraq" when that umbrella organization was founded in October 2006. This did not make many transnational jihadi-Salafis happy, including AQC's chief ideologue, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Ayman al-Zawahiri Calls for Ansar al-Sunnah/Ansar al-Islam to Join the Islamic State of Iraq
Ansar al-Islam Oct 23 (العدد الثاني من سلسلة رجال صدقوا (شهداء كركوك
"Men of Sincerity: Martyrs of Kirkuk," Ansar al-Islam (October 23, 2009)