Freedom Fighter

From The New York Post

by HEATHER ROBINSON

They killed Mithal Al-Alusi’s sons, but he won’t stop. He believes truth and freedom are too precious. Al-Alusi is the founder of the nine-month-old Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation (DPIN), a grassroots political party that champions individual rights. He believes the new Iraq should have strong economic and strategic ties with other democracies.

He has come to Washington to speak with congressional leaders; tomorrow he’ll testify before Rep. Chris Shays’ subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, at a hearing on democracy in the Muslim World.

His story offers insight into the will of the Iraqi people to be self-governed and free. Tragically, it also illustrates the depths to which terrorists will sink to suppress the movement toward true democracy in the Mid-East.

In the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mithal Al-Alusi moved back to Iraq from Hamburg, Germany with his two sons, Ayman, 30, and Gamal, 22. For the Al-Alusis, it was a joyous homecoming. Twenty seven years earlier, they had fled Iraq after Mithal was sentenced to death for opposing Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.

Now they were returning to help shape a democratic Iraq.

To that end, Al-Alusi accepted a position as director general of the Iraqi National Commission on de-Ba’athification. This commission’s task was to help Iraq make the transition from a totalitarian society to one whose citizens embraced democracy. One of its duties was to insure that no Ba’athist sympathizers remained in the new government.

Al-Alusi, who sees similarities between the Nazi and Ba’athist ideologies, felt he could learn from the experiences of individuals who had been involved in de-Nazification, or helping post-war Europe recover its democratic way of life.

And so, last September, he delivered an ideological bomb more deeply threatening to democracy’s foes than anything he had ever done: He visited Israel. Specifically, he attended the Herzliya conference, an international policy forum that attracts scholars, politicians and Israel’s military elite.

There, he publicly thanked the United States “for liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s terror.”

Al-Alusi didn’t have a chance to leave the conference before his family started getting death threats from insurgents.

When he returned to Iraq, the interim Iraqi government stripped him of his position and security protection for violating a law — established under Saddam’s dictatorship — against visiting Israel. He was issued an arrest warrant, and told to leave the country or he would be jailed alongside former Ba’athists — a death sentence.

After 27 years in exile, Al-Alusi was not about to be intimidated. With the help of his sons, he founded the DPIN and got the party onto the ballot for the upcoming elections. Eventually, the government dropped the charges against him. Shortly before the election, his younger son, Gamal, was quoted as saying, “It is true we are in danger, but if this is the price for democracy and peace, it is a very low price.”

A few days after the election, in which the DPIN garnered several thousand votes, Mithal passed on a trip to inspect the party’s new offices; his sons went without him.

Terrorist insurgents ambushed the car. Ayman and Gamal Al-Alusi and their bodyguard, Hayder Hassain, died of gunshot wounds.

Although he has lost more than his life, Al-Alusi remains committed to building democracy in Iraq.

“I cannot stop my political work because I have lost my two sons,” he said. “We have to go further, to be against terrorists and anyone who believes they have the right to control people.”

Al-Alusi came to Washington D.C. in early May to meet with congressional leaders including Shays (R-Conn.) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.).

His message: America should be bolder in supporting small political parties such as his that advocate individual rights and alliances with other democracies. Unlike the larger, religious parties, the DPIN has received no aid from American nonprofits, but over the past several months Al-Alusi has built the membership to 7,000 brave souls “from all over Iraq — Shia, Sunni and Kurd,” he says, adding: “Our party members have different beliefs, but they share a belief in Iraq and in peace.”

His sons’ dedication to building a democracy free of intimidation and repression inspires him to continue their work.

“Both of my sons left Germany to be part of a democratic process,” he said, “and I am very proud of them.”

This entry was written by and posted on May 16, 2005 at 4:40 pm and filed under Commentary.