This is so horrible! The situation it reports on – and the fact that the guy who wrote it was murdered yesterday.

As has been widely reported of late, Basran politics (and everyday life) is increasingly coming under the control of Shiite religious groups, from the relatively mainstream Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to the bellicose followers of the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr…And unfortunately, the British seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it…Fearing to appear like colonial occupiers, they avoid any hint of ideological indoctrination: in my time with them, not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society.

So – guess what.

At the city’s university, for example, self-appointed monitors patrol the campuses, ensuring that women’s attire and makeup are properly Islamic. “I’d like to throw them off the grounds, but who will do it?” a university administrator asked me. “Most of our police belong to the same religious parties as the monitors.”

Nightmare. Nightmare, nightmare, nightmare.

An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations – mostly of former Baath Party members – that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of “death car”: a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.

And now the guy who wrote those words – who did not remain anonymous – has himself been assassinated.

Mr. Vincent and Ms. Tuaiz were kidnapped around 7 p.m. Tuesday, as they left a moneychanger’s shop in downtown Basra, by at least two men dressed in police uniforms and driving a police sedan, said a witness who spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution…An officer in the Basra police department said Mr. Vincent had been working on a story about the role of police officers in the recent assassinations of former Baath Party officials…A recent comment on his blog showed that he was aware of the dangers of writing too openly about the Shiite parties of Basra, and that he had tried to be discreet in a recent story published in The Christian Science Monitor: “When you read this, keep in mind that for various reasons – not the least of which were safety concerns – the piece only scratches the surface of what is happening here.”

Hell. It’s just bottomlessly depressing.

Mr. Vincent said in conversations that he was particularly incensed about the sharp divide between men and women in the Islamic world. He said he had fully supported the American-led invasion of Iraq because he believed it was part of a much larger campaign being waged by the United States against what he called “Islamo-fascism.” But Mr. Vincent also said it was the duty of journalists to expose the pitfalls of the rising tide of Shiite Islam in Iraq to awaken the Bush administration to the kind of nation the White House was helping to create.

No doubt the rising tide of Shiite Islam didn’t want him doing that. Well, now he won’t be anymore.

Vincent’s blog is here. Worth reading, if the top post is anything to go on.

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