Raids on Grand Ayatollah Najafi's Students
Sheikh Ali Najafi, the son of Shiite cleric Bashir al-Najafi, announced May 19 on his Facebook page that police and intelligence forces were raiding the houses and schools of international students, mainly Pakistanis, and dragging scores of them to Iraqi police stations. This incident coincided with the announcement of the results of the Iraqi parliamentary elections held at the end of last month. Shortly before the elections, Sheikh Bashir criticized the government of Nouri al-Maliki, accusing it of using money and power to buy votes. He also called on the people not to vote for Maliki’s electoral list...
The raids came under the pretext of implementing residency laws for foreigners in Iraq, although authorities had no previous reports of violations by students in that regard. This raises doubts about the campaign targeting Pakistani students who are sponsored by Najafi.
The news stirred fierce reactions within the Najaf religious establishment. The head of cleric Ali al-Sistani's bureau said, “The arbitrary, humiliating and cruel measures security agencies have adopted against a number of Pakistani students in the Shiite seminaries, and the arrest of scores of them under the pretext of implementing the residency laws for foreigners in the country, are completely unacceptable and strongly condemned. Higher authorities should halt these practices, conduct investigations into those who carried them out and take suitable measures against them."To clarify, Grand Ayatollah Najafi is himself of Pakistani origin, though he has lived in Iraq for half a century.