[QODLink]
Middle East
Obituary: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
Al-Hakim was a Shia Muslim leader and chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2009 17:06 GMT

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim rose from persecution under Saddam Hussein's rule to
become one of Iraq's most powerful leaders [
EPA]

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim was a key player in Iraqi politics, being a principle Shia Muslim leader and chairman of the Iranian-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).

A member of a prestigious clerical family based in al-Najaf, central Iraq, al-Hakim fled religious persecution by Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led government in Iraq in the late 1970s.

However, by his death in 2009 al-Hakim was not only a locus of power in Iraqi politics, but a symbol of the Shia community's emergence from decades of oppression by Saddam and their return to power.

Al-Hakim's family moved to Iran in 1980 where ISCI was founded to fight against Saddam's Baath party rule. The ISCI aided the Iranian army in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.

Al-Hakim led the Badr Brigade, the military wing of the ISCI, during the 1980-88 conflict.

The family led the 1991 Shia uprising against Saddam's government from Iran, with whose government he built strong ties.

After occupation

Al-Hakim returned to Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003 that ended Saddam's rule. He was selected as a Shia member in the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC).

After his brother, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, was assassinated in al-Najaf on 29 August, 2003, he succeeded him as chairman of ISCI.

The younger al-Hakim lacked the charisma and political know-how of his brother, but proved an able leader and fast learner.

ISCI became an influential group in Iraqi politics after the occupation and it pushed to secure an Iranian-style government in Iraq.

Yet, it fashioned ties to Washington at the same time as remaining close to Iran, with al-Hakim seeing the US military as key to the Shia's rise.

He was mistrusted by many Sunnis in Iraq, and his vigorous backing for Shia self-rule in southern Iraq was considered by many Sunnis to be a ploy to install Iranian control of the region.

Shia-led government

In the 2005 parliament election, he formed a Shia alliance which took a majority and subsequently allied with the Kurds to form a government.

Many analysts have said that al-Hakim played a significant role in Iraqi national unity and persevered in trying to reduce differences of opinion between groups.

But Shia parties suffered losses in provincial elections in January 2009, apparently due to reactions against religious parties and the Supreme Council's failure to improve public services.

Two days before al-Hakim's death, the ISCI formed a new Shia coalition, this time without the Dawa party of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, to contest elections in January 2009.

Al-Hakim died of lung cancer at the age of 59 on August 26, 2009, in a hospital in Tehran, the capital of Iran.

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.