Yesterday in Karbala, the young Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr let it be known that he would be “freezing” all activities of his Mahdi Army militia for six months. It remains to be seen whether the move will have any impact on the sectarian carnage in Iraq; some analysts simply believe that this is an attempt by al-Sadr to reassert his control over the group, which has become increasingly fractious and divided over recent months.
The Mahdi Army is merely the best known of the many militias and criminal gangs roaming Iraq, making violence an everyday reality for millions of Iraqis. The stories of the individuals and families caught up in such violence are usually lost in the horrific statistics that spew forth from the country almost every day. This is why we chose to publish this article by the Independent‘s Kim Sengupta in the new issue of Prospect. Sengupta tells the story of the al-Hayalis, a middle-class family who were preparing to flee Iraq for Dubai when tragedy struck. Let us know your thoughts below.