Posted on January 5, 2013 by END TIME HEADLINES
Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Iraq on Friday, charging that Sunni Muslims had been disenfranchised under the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri Malikiand pressing for detainees to be freed.
Protests have raged for weeks and continued even after the Iraqi
justice ministry freed nearly a dozen female prisoners and said it would
transfer others to jails closer to their homes. The unrest has spread
from Anbar province, where infuriated protesters have blocked a key
highway, to other Sunni strongholds across northern and western Iraq.
“How much longer will our children stay in prisons for no other
reason than being Sunni,” a man who gave his name as Abu Abdullah told Agence France-Presse at one demonstration in Baghdad, where protesters hoisted banners calling for anti-terror laws to be repealed.
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, one of Maliki’s chief opponents,
called for him to step down in a statement read on Iraqi television, Bloomberg reported Friday. The push against Maliki has also been bolstered by powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, who reached out to the protesters Friday by joining in prayer at a Sunni mosque, according to the Associated Press.
Maliki and his government have their “last chance for
reconciliation,” Alaa Makki, who leads the Sunni Iraqiya bloc in
parliament, told Al Jazeera. Protesters “are waiting for the government to send somebody there, representing the governmental concerns.”
The prime minister appears to be trying to head off clashes that could escalate the situation. In a statement Friday (link
in Arabic), Maliki called on the armed forces and police to “exercise
the utmost restraint” in dealing with protesters. He also asked
demonstrators to stop “sectarian and terrorist groups” from infiltrating
and sowing sectarian strife, “which if returned, God forbid, it will
burn us all.”
Kurdish and Sunni sources told Reuters that
Sunni Islamists are driving the protests in the hopes of creating their
own semi-autonomous region akin to Kurdistan, emboldened by the belief
that the ongoing uprising in Syria will ultimately tip the regional
balance of power toward Sunnis.
The unrest comes ahead of elections slated for this spring. Sadr is
believed to be making gestures to the Sunni protesters and religious
minorities in order to style himself as a unifying figure ahead of the
provincial vote. LA Times
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