The Islamic Dawa Party
or Islamic Call Party (Arabic
حزب الدعوة الإسلامية Ḥizb al Daʿwa al-Islāmiyya
) is, historically, a militant Shiite Islamic
group and, presently, an Iraqi conservative
political party. Dawa and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council
are two of the main parties in the religious-Shiite United Iraqi Alliance
, which won a plurality of seats in both the provisional January 2005 Iraqi election
and the longer-term December 2005 election
. The party is led by Nouri al-Maliki
, who is also the current Prime Minister of Iraq.
Al-Dawa was formed in 1957 (some say 1967) by a group of Shi'ite leaders including Mohammed Salih Al-Adeeb, Sayid Murtadha Alaskary, Abdul Sahib Dukheil, Sayid Mohammed Mahdi Al-Hakim, Sayid Mohammed Baqir Al-Hakim, Mohammed Sadiq Al-Qamoosee and Sayid Talib Al-Rafa’ee. Their aim was to create a party and a movement which would promote Islamic values and ethics, political awareness, combat secularism
, and create an Islamic state in Iraq. This came at a time when there was widespread ignorance about religion, and politics in Iraq was dominated by secularist Arab nationalist
ideas. Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr
– who was widely recognised as a leading philosopher, theologian and political theorist – quickly emerged as the leading member. It was he who laid out the foundations for the party and its political ideology, based on Wilayat Al-Umma
(Governance of the people). A "twin" Islamic Dawa Party
was also founded in Lebanon
by clerics who had studied in Najaf and supported Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr's vision of a resurgent Islam.
Al-Dawa gained strength in the 1970s recruiting from among the Shia ulama and youth. It waged an armed campaign against the Iraqi Ba'thist government which initiated a crackdown on Shi'a political activism, driven in part by the secular nature of the Ba'thist ideology and in part by their view of a politicized Shi'a as a threat to the stability of the regime. During the 1970s, the government shutdown the Shi'a journal Risalat al-Islam and closed several religious educational institutions. The government passed a law obligating Iraqi students of the hawza to undertake national military service. The Ba'thists then began specifically targeting al-Da'wa members, arresting and imprisoning them from 1972 onwards. In 1973 someone killed the alleged head of al-Da'wa's Baghdad branch in prison. In 1974 75 al-Da'wa members were arrested and sentenced to death by the Ba'thist revolutionary court. In 1975 the government canceled the annual procession from Najaf to Karbala, known as marad al-ras. Although subject to repressive measures throughout the 1970s, large-scale opposition to the government by al-Da'wa goes back to the Safar Intifada of February 1977. Despite the government's ban on the celebration of marad al-ras, al-Da'wa organized the procession in 1977. They were subsequently attacked by police. After this period it also interacted with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the future spiritual leader of Iran, during his exile in Najaf in Iraq.
Dawa versus Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr
Tensions between Al-Sadr and Dawa came to light when Al-Sadr forbade his students at the seminary (Hawza) from joining Dawa party. Amongst the retaliatory steps taken, Dawa switched their allegiance to Abu Al-Qassim Al-Khoei another leading scholar in Najaf. However it is alleged that Al-Sadr took this step in an attempt to save students of the seminaries and Dawa party members from persecution by the Baath regime, and that the tension was merely a political move demanded by the harsh times.
Iranian Islamic Revolution
Dawa supported the Islamic Revolution
and in turn received support from the Iranian government. During the Iran–Iraq War
, Iran backed a Dawa insurgency against Saddam Hussein
's Baathist government in Iraq. In 1979, Dawa moved its headquarters to Tehran
, the capital of Iran.
Despite this cooperation, al-Sadr's and Khomenei's visions of an Islamic Republic differed sharply in certain respects. While Khomeini argued the power of the state should rest with the ulema, al-Dawa supported the notion of power resting with the ummah, or in other words, the people. This disagreement was one factor that led to the formation of SCIRI as a separate group from al-Dawa. Al-Dawa claimed to have many Sunni members in the 1980s and coordinated with several Sunni Islamist groups at that stage. On March 31, 1980, the Baathist regime's Revolutionary Command Council passed a law sentencing to death all past and present members of the Da'wa party, its affiliated organizations, and people working for its goals. This was soon followed by a renewed and relentless purge of alleged and actual party members, with estimates varying on the numbers executed due to the secretive nature of the Iraqi regime.
In the West al-Dawa was widely viewed as a terrorist organization during the Iran–Iraq War, especially since the West tended to be more supportive of Iraq during that conflict. It is thought responsible for a host of assassination attempts in Iraq against the president, prime minister and others, as well as attacks against Western and Sunni targets elsewhere. It attempted to assassinate Tariq Aziz, Hussein's longtime loyalist, in 1980; and Saddam Hussein himself in 1982 and 1987. Following Saddam's 2003 overthrow, the former President was ultimately hanged for murder and torture relating to reprisals carried out following a Dawa assassination attempt on himself.
1983 Kuwait Bombing
In 1983 Dawa simultaneously bombed the American and French embassies
and several other domestic and foreign targets in Kuwait. This led to the imprisonment of the "Kuwait 17" in Kuwait, 12 of which were Iraqis in al-Dawa. The bombing of the American embassy was an early instance of suicide bombing in the Middle East, along with the Hezbollah's bombings of the American Embassy
and Marine barracks
in Lebanon earlier that year.
Freeing the al-Dawa prisoners in Kuwait was one of the main objectives of a string of kidnappings and bombings perpetrated by Hezbollah over the next several years. (One of the Kuwait 17, Mustafa Badreddin, is a relative and associate of Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah.) The Kuwait 17 then played a role in the Iran-Contra scandal: The principals of Iran-Contra offered to sway Kuwait to release the Kuwait 17 as one of several incentives to free American hostages in Lebanon. However, when President Reagan learned of this offer, he allegedly responded "like he had been kicked in the belly." The Kuwait 17 somehow gained freedom, possibly by escaping or by a prisoner exchange with Iran, when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in the prelude to the Persian Gulf War.
Al-Dawa has since insisted that the attacks in Kuwait were perpetrated by agents who had been "hijacked" by Iran. In February 2007, journalists reported that Jamal Jaafar Muhammad, who was elected to the Iraqi parliament in 2005 as part of the SCIRI/Badr faction of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), was also sentenced to death in Kuwait for planning the al-Dawa bombings. Since al-Dawa is also part of the UIA, it is therefore difficult to argue a complete break from these past acts of violence. On the other hand, Muhammad's position could indicate some distance, since he is a former al-Dawa militant who is now in the Badr Organization.
2003 American Invasion
Most leaders of al-Dawa remained in exile in Iran and elsewhere until the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. During this period, some of its factions moved to SCIRI
. After the invasion, both al-Dawa and SCIRI returned to Iraq. Al-Dawa chose Nasariyah
as its base of operations in Iraq and now essentially controls this city.
The political ideology of al-Da'wa is heavily influenced by work done by Baqr al-Sadr who laid out four mandatory principles of governance in his 1975 work, Islamic Political System. These were:
- Absolute sovereignty belongs to God.
- Islamic injunctions are the basis of legislation. The legislative authority may enact any law not repugnant to Islam.
- The people, as vice-regents of Allah, are entrusted with legislative and executive powers.
- The jurist holding religious authority represents Islam. By confirming legislative and executive actions, he gives them legality."
- 1968-1969 - Al-Dawa founded by Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr in response to repression of Shi'i religious academies in Najaf by the Iraqi Ba'ath regime.
- 1974 - Ba'thist revolutionary court arrests and sentences 75 al-Dawa members to death.
- 1975 - Annual pilgrimage from Najaf to Karbala - called the Marad al-Ras - is cancelled by the Ba'ath government.
- 1977 February - The Safar Intifada. Al-Dawa organizes Marad al-Ras, in spite of government ban. Event is attacked by police.
- 1979 Iranian Revolution. Al-Dawa creates a military wing, later called Shahid al-Sadr.
- 1980 30 March - Ba'athist Revolutionary Command Council retroactively bans al-Dawa; membership was made punishable by death. 96 al-Dawa members are allegedly executed this month.
- 1980 1 April - al-Dawa unsuccessfully attempts to assassinate Tariq Aziz, Foreign Minister at the time.
- 1980 9 April - Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister Amina Sadr bint al-Huda are arrested and executed.
- 1981 Mid-December - Iraqi embassy in Beirut is leveled by a suicide bomber. Iraqi al-Da'wa party claims credit for the attack, citing Iraq's invasion of Iran. Perhaps the first Shia suicide bombing, the attack was an "oft-noticed precedent" for the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut.
- 1982 - Al-Dawa assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in Dujail fails. Heavy crack-downs on al-Dawa by Hussein's regime. Many flee to Iran, where it suffers from competition with SCIRI.
- 1983 12 December - In Kuwait, the American and French embassies, Kuwait airport, the main oil refinery in Kuwait, and a residential area for Raytheon employees are bombed. 17 suspects were soon arrested, mostly al-Dawa members, including Jamal Jafaar Mohammed (currently member of Iraq's parliament as a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition). Jamal Jafaar Mohammed escapes from Kuwait before the trial starts and is sentenced to death in absentia in 1984.
- 1987 - Al-Dawa attacks Saddam's motorcade but again fails to kill him.
- 1996 - Attempt made on the life of Saddam's son, Uday. Al-Dawa blamed.
- 2003 - After the Invasion of Iraq al-Dawa returns to Iraq, basing itself in the city of Nasiriya which the party now runs and controls.
- 2005 January - The United Iraqi Alliance, triumphs in the January 2005 Elections; Dawa leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari becomes Prime Minister.
- 2005 December - The United Iraqi Alliance, triumphs in the December 2005 Elections.
- 2006 - Dawa deputy leader Jawad al-Maliki replaces Ibrahim al-Jaafari as Prime Minister.
(Original Arabic is دعوة with pharyngeal consonant — see Dawah.)