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Shia clerics will travel to Iraq to resist IS, protect shrines

IS terrorists are targeting the Shia community in the war-torn region.

ABHIMANYU DAS  New Delhi | 11th Oct 2014

Five Shia clerics and a well-known lawyer are planning to travel to Iraq next week in order to help resist the Islamic State terrorists targeting the community in the war-torn region.

The group of Shia clerics includes Maulana Kalbe Javed from Lucknow, along with four office bearers of the Delhi based Shia organisation Anjuman-e-Haideri. They will be accompanied by Mahmood Paracha, a Supreme Court lawyer, who has been fighting scores of terror related cases.

Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, general secretary of the organisation, who will be travelling to Iraq, said that the group received their visa approvals almost three months ago. However, he added, "following the fall of government in Iraq, we had to postpone our plan. It took a full month before a new government was put in place and resumed its duties. We are now hoping to have our visas renewed once the Iraqi embassy here in Delhi opens post the Eid vacations. We plan to leave next week."

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14 August (a copy with this newspaper), the organisation said that it planned to send a "large number of volunteers to safeguard the holy shrines in Iraq, oppose terrorism, work for peace and humanity, by absolutely legal and moral means, respecting universally accepted international, national, humanitarian and moral principles." The correspondence also mentions that the delegation has meetings lined up with the top political leadership of Iraq, a Shia majority country.

The Shias revere the two shrines in Najaf and Karbala in Iraq.

Naqvi said that the organisation planned to send approximately two lakh volunteers, who have already registered with the organisation, to Iraq in order to safeguard the shrines, among other objectives that it plans to fulfil. Out of the two lakh volunteers, 6,000 have been short-listed, including doctors and engineers, said Naqvi. Their applications for visas have already been submitted, he added.

The Islamic State controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. It has declared a Sunni caliphate in the area it controls and has been killing adherents to other Islamic sects whom it considers apostates, including the Shias.

When contacted, Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said that the travel advisory prohibiting Indian citizens to travel to Iraq was still in place. However, he clarified that there was no blanket ban on the same. "We keep a check on those travellers who are unskilled professionals. However, we cannot stop the others. Even if we were to monitor direct flights to Iraq, we cannot stop those willing to travel, from flying to Dubai and going to Iraq from there," said Akbaruddin.

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