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Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)

By:
Joyce N. Wiley
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)

An association of groups committed to establishing Islamic government in Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (al-Majlis al-Aʿlā li al-Thawrah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʿIrāq), SCIRI, was organized in November 1982 when Iraqi opposition groups in Iran banded together at the Iranian government's behest. The groups were Ḥizb al-Daʿwah al-Islāmīyah (Party of the Call to Islam); Harakāt al-Mujāhidīn (Movement of Fighters in a Holy Cause); Munazzama al-ʿAmal al-Islāmīyah (Islamic Task Organization); Harakāt al-Mujāhidīn fī al-ʿIrāq (Movement of Iraqi Fighters in a Holy Cause) led by Jalāl al-Dīn al-Saghir; Harakāt al-Mujāhidīn fī al-ʿIrāq (Movement of Iraqi Fighters in a Holy Cause) led by ʿAbd al-ʿHakīm; Jund al-Imām (Soldiers of the Imam); al-Daʿwah al-Islāmīyah (Call to Islam); and Harakāt al-Islāmīyah fī al-Kurd (the Kurdish Islamic Movement or KIM). All were Arab Shīʿī groups except the latter, which consisted of Sunnī Kurds. SCIRI was committed to an Iraq united within the framework of Islamic brotherhood and to self-rule for the Kurds. Its governing body was a central committee elected by a general assembly representing the constituent Islamic movements. Funding came from the Iranian government and from the marjiʿīyah, the Shīʿī religious establishment.

The leader of SCIRI was Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ḥakīm (1939–2003), the charismatic son of the deceased Grand Ayatollah Muḥsin al-Ḥakīm, Iraq's chief religious authority in the 1960s. Among the other founding members were Ḥizb al-Daʿwah's Sayyid Ibrāhīm Jaʿfarī, who became prime minister of Iraq in 2005, and Shaykh Kāzim al-Ḥāʿirī, who became a prominent ayatollah in Iran. SCIRI acknowledged the Islamic Republic of Iran as the foundation of the world Islamic revolution and aimed to establish a representative Islamic government in Iraq by pursuing two paths: militarily resisting the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and uniting Iraqi opposition groups. To those ends SCIRI formed an alliance with the Kurdish National Union led by the Barzānīs, Iraq's most powerful Kurdish family. Later the group also allied with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Iraq's other major Kurdish party. The constituent groups met annually and opened offices in Iraqi Kurdistan, Damascus, London, and elsewhere.

SCIRI oversaw prisoner-of-war camps for Iran during the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988) and organized conferences to call attention to the plight of the Iraqi people. SCIRI's military arm was the Badr Brigade (    faylaq badr) set up in cooperation with Iran's Revolutionary Guards and trained by them near the Iranian city of Dezfūl. Members of the Badr Brigade were predominantly ex-Iraqi army personnel, tribesmen, and former Iraqi policemen who were captured by Iran or fled to Iran during the war. The Badr Brigade carried out guerrilla operations inside Iraq and secured the Iraqi village of Ḥaj ʿUmrān near Sulaymānīyah in 1983. SCIRI's executive director, Abū Thaʿir al-Ḥasan, was killed in Ḥaj ʿUmrān by an Iraqi government chemical attack in November 1987.

Prior to relocating to Iran, Ḥizb al-Daʿwah, a major component of SCIRI, rejected the principle of wilāyat al-faqīh (the guardianship of the jurist) as a principle of Islamic governance. In Iran, pressure on SCIRI members to accept wilāyat al-faqīh resulted in most of Hizb al-Daʿwah leaving SCIRI by 1984. Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ḥakīm, who had been a prominent Ḥizb al-Daʿwah leader, accepted the guardianship of Imam Khomeini and the leadership of SCIRI.

During the first Gulf War of 1990–1991, SCIRI worked with other Iraqi opposition groups to set up a plan for governing Iraq in the event Saddam Hussein's government was toppled. The plan called for elections and for Kurdish autonomy. From 1991 to 2003, SCIRI carried out guerrilla actions in southern Iraq and the mountains of northern Iraq. In August of 2002 SCIRI was one of six Iraqi groups invited to the United States prior to U.S. military action against Iraq in March 2003.

In connection with the 2003 U.S. invasion, SCIRI returned to Iraq from its exile in Iran. The Badr Brigade, led by Hadī al-Amīrī from the mid-1990s, fought in Diyala Province against defenders of the Baʿthist regime. When law and order in Iraq collapsed shortly after the fall of the Iraqi government, the ten-thousand-man Badr Brigade provided security in such places as Baʿqūba and Majar al-Kabir and distributed food and other supplies trucked in from Iran. In response to U.S. demands, most of the Badr Brigade disarmed in September 2003 and the name was changed to the Badr Organization.

In August 2003, Ayatollah Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ḥakīm was killed in a terrorist bombing in Najaf. His brother Sayyid ʿAbdul ʿAzīz al-Ḥakīm (1950–), SCIRI's executive director and military leader, became the SCIRI leader. As a member of the Iraqi Governing Council set up by U.S. occupation authorities, ʿAbdul ʿAzīz al-Ḥakīm pushed the restoration of religious courts for family law matters.

As insurgent attacks on the Shīʿī community mounted in the absence of government-provided security, many Shīʿī areas were protected by the Badr militia. The Badr Organization competed with other Shīʿī groups for control of southern Iraqi cities like Basra. On occasion, the Badr militia joined peshmerga (Kurdish guerrilla) units to supplement American troops in Sunnī areas.

SCIRI was a leader of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which won both of Iraq's national elections in 2005. In the provincial elections SCIRI emerged as the dominant political power outside Kurdistan. SCIRI supported the October 2005 constitution outlining a loose federal state with a weak central government, a position opposed by Sunnī Arab groups as likely to fragment Iraq into several mini-states.

Having won the most seats in parliament, SCIRI led four ministries, including the powerful Interior Ministry. When men in Interior Ministry uniforms began kidnapping and killing young men from Sunnī neighborhoods, many blamed the Badr militia. As security in Iraq continued to deteriorate, SCIRI's leader, Sayyid ʿAbdul ʿAzīz al-Ḥakīm, announced support for an Iraqi federal system consisting of three large provinces: a Kurdish state in the north, a Shīʿī confederation in the south, and a Sunnī Arab state in the center. This position met SCIRI's longtime commitment to the Kurds but was considered inimical to Baghdad's Shīʿī majority, who would be surrounded by the central province.

In May 2007, in a convention of its constituent groups, SCIRI changed its name to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (al-Majlis al-Aʿlā al-Islāmīyah al-ʿIrāqīyah). SIIC made Iraq's Ayatollah Sistānī its guide, replacing Iran's guide, Ayatollah Khameneʿi, an action that meant the organization no longer supported wilāyat al-faqīh. The groups affiliated with SIIC are the Badr Organization, Iraqi Ḥizbullāh, the Shahīd al-Mahrab Foundation, and the Sayyid al-Shuhadāʿ Movement. The general assembly consists of 163 members and the central committee of 15 members. The official newspaper is al-Istiqāmah (Straightness).See also Hakīm, Muhammad Bāqir al-; Hizb al- Daʿwah al-Islāmīyah; and Iraq.]

Bibliography

  • Herring, Eric, and Glen Rangwala. Iraq in Fragments. London, 2006. A good account of the events of 2003–2006 in Iraq and SCIRI's part in them.
  • Musawi, Karim al-. “Brief History of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).”Washington, D.C., 2007. Eight-page history written by the SCIRI representative in the United States.
  • “Official Site of the Supreme Council for Islamic Resistance in Iraq.” www.sciri.btinternet.co.uk
  • Wiley, Joyce N.The Islamic Movement of Iraqi Shiʿas. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1992. Account of the contemporary movement to establish Islamic government in Iraq.
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