First Published: 2013-01-12

 

Pro- vs. anti-Maliki rallies: Demonstrations worsen political crisis in Iraq

 

Demonstrations pit Maliki against his erstwhile government partners, with premier facing accusations of authoritarianism, sectarianism.

 

Middle East Online

By Prashant Rao – BAGHDAD

Baghdad besieges itself

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in central Baghdad backing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday as the latest in weeks of anti-government rallies in Sunni areas of Iraq called for him to quit.

The demonstrations have worsened a political crisis, pitting Maliki against his erstwhile government partners, with the premier facing accusations of authoritarianism and sectarianism ahead of key provincial polls.

At Tahrir Square in the heart of the capital, demonstrators held up posters of the prime minister alongside banners that read: "I am Iraqi, I love Maliki," and: "We strongly support Nuri al-Maliki," while many shouted in unison: "All the people support Nuri al-Maliki".

Other banners blamed parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab opponent of Maliki, for militant attacks and slammed calls in anti-government protests for a wide-ranging prisoner amnesty and reform of anti-terror laws.

In a sign of increasing sectarian rhetoric at the demonstrations, many demonstrators held up banners describing themselves as "followers of Hussein", a revered figure in Shiite Islam, and a speaker led the crowd in chants of "Labeika Ya Hussein", or "We will follow you, Hussein".

"In the names of all the martyrs, the victims, the widows, we call on the government not to cancel Article 4," said one protester, a 67-year-old who gave his name as Abu Hussam, referring to anti-terror legislation.

He noted that his son was killed by gunfire in west Baghdad in 2006, adding: "He was 20, I was about to get him married. For six years, I have not slept, I hope one night I can sleep."

Meanwhile, anti-government rallies blocked a key highway linking Baghdad to Jordan and Syria for a third week, while protests were also held in Samarra, Tikrit, Baiji and Mosul, all Sunni-majority areas north of the capital.

In the longest-running of the protests, in western Anbar province, tribal leaders called for Maliki to resign.

The prime minister has threatened to direct security forces to intervene in the protests, which were sparked by the December 20 arrest of at least nine guards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi.

Essawi is a leading member of the secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc that, while a member of Maliki's unity government, has called for him to quit.

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose movement counts 40 MPs and five ministers among its ranks, has also publicly opposed Maliki.

 

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’

Iraq Kurdistan digs trench to prevent militant infiltration from Syria

Saudi urges stern world action against Syria

Zarif mission to mend Iran-Gulf ties begins in UAE

Results of Egypt vote appear before time in collection of signatures

South Sudan rebels demand firms end oil production

Jordan court sentences Syrian smugglers to five years in prison

Security concerns force Iraq to shut notorious Abu Ghraib prison

Turkey to social media companies: Open offices and pay taxes

Bashir bans political party meetings without permission

Shoes thrown at Jordan PM for ‘raising prices’

Jordan envoy to Libya abducted

US condemns ‘unconscionable’ threats against Libyan PM

Assailants attack Bahrain police car with Molotov cocktails

Bomb attack targets security checkpoint in Cairo

US takes issue with Assad’s upper hand claim

Militants close Iraq's Euphrates River dam

How did Bouteflika's 15 years in power bring corruption to Algeria?

Libya court adjourns trial of ex-Gathafi officials

Iran complains to UN over US visa ban to chosen envoy

Twitter executives meet Turkish officials amid tax evasion accusations

UN rights chief condemns ‘routine’ use of torture in Syria

Egypt's Sisi officially submits bid for president

Syria completes handover of nearly two-thirds of chemical weapons

Cash-strapped Hamas turns to laser-tech for police training

Syria army retakes ancient Christian town of Maalula

Hezbollah gaining new combat experience in Syria

Algerian nomads begin voting for presidential election