Abdul Majid Al Khoei
The cleric who had returned to Iraq from exile in Britain to try to mediate between Iraqis and the invading American and British forces.
Al-Khoei fled to London, in 1994, years following the first Gulf War, and he devoted himself to the charitable work of his father's al-Khoei Foundation - running primary and secondary schools and a mosque and funding scholarships for Islamic studies, and above all channelling charity to southern Iraq, which became increasingly impoverished after imposition of western sanctions in the 1990s. The result of his effort was that al-Khoie Foundation became an UN-affiliated consultative body. Lately al-Khoei began to indulge in politics with American-backed Iraqi opposition groups, annoying some exiles who felt he should stick to charitable work.
Following the invasion of Iraq by American and British forces, on 19 March 2003, resulting into the worsening of the humanitarian situation there, al-Khoei was persuaded, by the American and the British, to go to Iraq though close friends and family begged him not to. On reaching Iraq, in April 2003, al-Khoei was urging his followers to co-operate with the American and British forces in Iraq and thus he was overtaken by events and it was not clear then whether his death was due to a spontaneous flare-up of anti-American anger. However, subsequently the strong indication was that al-Khoei's association with the American and British forces had provoked the attack because 'certain people did not want him in that role.'
A twist to the tragedy was provided by a Newsday report (2 May 2003) claiming that the CIA had given al-Khoei $13 million for 'a covert action program to strengthen Shiites who are pro-western' and recruit more allies. As 'al-Khoei was being stabbed, a number of $100 and $50 bills in US currency spilled out of his clerical robes' and 'that made the crowd angrier at him.'
Al-Khoei's murder inside the sacred enclosure, in his home city of Najaf, bodes ill for the future of Iraq where a complex and chaotic situation is giving rise to many contending groups and factions.
Al-Khoei, a charming and dignified person, hailed from Iraq's great clerical families - son of Grand Ayatullah Abdul Qasim al-Khoei.
Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan