United in their fight against Saddam Hussein’s oppression for decades, Iraq’s Shi’ites have become deeply fragmented and disillusioned with their leaders after 15 years in power. In Iraq’s Shi’ite heartlands, many who once voted blindly along sectarian lines are now turning their ire against the Shi’ite-led governments they say have failed to repair crumbling infrastructure, provide jobs or end the violence. The divisions within the community now risk splitting the Shi’ite vote in a May 12 election, which could complicate and delay the formation of a government, threaten gains against Islamic State and let Iran meddle further in Iraq’s politics.
In the oil-rich southern province of Basra, 81-year-old retired teacher Mowafaq Abdul Ghani is disappointed with the performance of the Shi’ite leaders since Saddam fell in 2003.
“I’ve been waiting for Saddam to fall since the 1970s. I’ve been waiting for you! Why would you do this to us?” he said.
“Look around. The streets are filthy, there are flies everywhere, pot holes at every step. Twenty years ago Basra was terrible but it was better than this,” Abdul Ghani said.