BASRA, Iraq — Physicians have been beaten for treating female patients. Liquor salesmen have been killed. Even barbers have faced threats for giving haircuts judged too short or too fashionable.
Religion rules the streets of this once cosmopolitan city, where women no longer dare go out uncovered.
"We can't sing in public anymore," said Hussin Nimma, a popular singer from the south. "It's ironic. We thought that with the change of the regime, people would be more open to singing, art and poetry."
Unmarked cars cruise the streets, carrying armed, plain-clothed enforcers of Islamic law. Who they are or answer to is unclear, but residents believe they are part of a battle for Basra's soul.
In the spring, Shiite and Sunni Muslim officials were killed in a series of assassinations here, and residents feared their city would fall prey to the kind of sectarian violence ailing the rest of the country.
I'm sure glad we went to war to "liberate" Iraq.