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.

 

Iraq protesters quit Green Zone after unprecedented breach

Yemen government suspends 'direct' talks with rebels

Russia, US in bids to freeze fighting in Syria's Aleppo

Deadly car bomb hits Turkey refugee hub near Syria border

Tight security marks world rallies to celebrate Labour Day

Up to 100 people missing in two Mediterranean shipwrecks

Aden police chief survives new assassination attempt

ISIS claims rare deadly bombings in southern Iraq

Iraq PM calls for punishment of protesters involved in violence

Yemen government forces seize Qaeda training camp

Rouhani allies win second round of Iran parliament elections

War continues in Aleppo, with US-Russia agreement

Angry protesters storm Iraq Green Zone

UN council votes to bring back full Western Sahara mission

Air strike hits clinic in rebel-held Aleppo

US, Russia 'agree freeze' on two Syrian fronts

Aleppo mourns paediatrician killed in air strike

Libya unity government vows to end jihadist 'scourge'

Turkey demands 5 years jail for UK academic over 'terror propaganda'

UK pair accused of giving money to Brussels, Paris attacks suspect

Turkey says Bursa bomber linked to PKK

UN rights chief calls Syrian crisis 'shameful realpolitik'

Kuwait steps up deportations of expat workers

South Sudan unveils unity government

Iranians vote in second round of parliamentary elections

Palestinians support, Israel opposes French peace initiative

Biden in surprise Iraq visit to support embattled government

MSF condemns strike on Aleppo hospital

Lifeline to millions in Syria 'may be broken' as violence intensifies

Turkish journalists get two years for publishing Charlie Hebdo cartoon

Greece making 'incredible effort' to tackle migration issue

Iraq shuts Al-Jazeera bureau for 'instigating violence and sectarianism'

Syria regime readies for major Aleppo offensive

Israel nuclear reactor defects spark secrecy dilemma

Suicide bomber targets Aden police chief

Death toll in Syria's Aleppo rises despite UN truce plea

Italy to introduce migrant fingerprinting at sea

UN envoy plans to hold another round of Syria peace talks

US proposes full restoration of Western Sahara mission

27 Yemeni soldiers dead in key offensive

Global press freedom drops to lowest level in 12 years

Constitutional amendment grants Jordan king more powers

Suicide bomber blows herself up in Turkey northwestern city

Austria adopts one of EU's toughest asylum laws

Netherlands warns no safety 'guarantees' for visitors to Turkey