The issue is a hot topic in newspapers and on social networking sites, and the city’s residents who objected to this project said that this is another attempt to turn Samarra into a holy Shiite province.
Badri said that in general the residents of Samarra are not against the project to turn their city into a governorate, but they fear that this would change its sectarian structure.
There have been some incidents in the past few months that contributed to fueling the sectarian discussion in the media. In late October 2014, the people of Samarra woke up to the sight of black flags on the Malwiya Tower. This was part of a Shiite ritual to commemorate the death of Hussein Ibn Ali, the third Imam, which caused a stir among the residents of Samarra and Tikrit, some of whom described the incident as a provocation to turn the city into a Shiite town.
Badri told Al-Monitor that his newspaper conducted an investigation of the issue, but he refrained from publishing it, fearing that it could exacerbate the sectarian tension. He said that the study included statements by local officials, who confirmed that there is a plan to change the demography of the city and create a Shiite majority.
What made matters worse was the arrival of millions of Shiite visitors to the city in December to commemorate the death of Imam Hasan al-Askari; according to the Shiite Endowment the event was attended by 3 million pilgrims.
Badri said that the large number of international Shiite visitors has been of great concern to the people of Samarra, who are once again having doubts about the future of their city.
Given the sectarian tension in Samarra, one could argue that the answer to the sectarian problem of Iraq starts here. Perhaps the Iraqi government ought to be more involved in this issue and put an end to the violations that contribute to fueling sectarian tension in Samarra. The idea of merging both the Shiite and Sunni Endowments or to create a Ministry of Endowment might be a step worth considering.