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.

 

Syria nearly completes surrendering chemical weapons

Netanyahu: Unity with Hamas ‘giant leap backward’ for peace

Kuwait MPs seek to question PM over alleged corruption

UK reaches out to Muslim women to prevent Syria jihad ‘tragedies’

Cleaner power starts being generated in southwestern Morocco

Thirteen killed in Iraq car bomb attack

Yemen Qaeda militants seize hospitals to treat wounded

Second-ranking US diplomat warns of rising extremism in Libya

Algeria blogger who ‘mocked’ Bouteflika goes free on bail

Syria army launches deadly air raid on market area in Aleppo

Armenia leader accuses Ankara of 'utter denial' on genocide

Mauritanian president will stand for re-election

Washington easing aid freeze to Cairo

France, US mull sanctions against South Sudan

Israel weighs response to Palestinian unity deal

South Sudan leader sacks army chief

Jordan amends anti-terror law to curb Jihadist threat

Netayahu to Abbas: Does you want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?

Bahrain expels representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Witnesses in Morsi trial: Hamas and Hezbollah attacked Egypt prisons

Family of detained Al-Jazeera reporter in Egypt call for his release

Bomb targets convoy of Education Minister in north Iraq

After Ervin scandal, Iran Prisons Chief becomes Head of Justice Department

Egypt FM travels to US as Washington relaxes hold on military aid

No Qatar ‘concessions’ on end of dispute with fellow Gulf states

US diplomat visits Libya amid political upheaval

Blair calls on West to combat ‘growing’ danger of Islamist extremism

Jarba asks Saudi Arabia to increase support for Syria rebels

Better late than never: Erdogan offers condolences over mass WWI killings of Armenians

Hezbollah veto dashes Geagea dreams of presidency

UN aid chiefs make impassionate call for Syria access

Police brigadier general killed in Cairo bomb attack

11 new MERS infections registered in Saudi

EU denounces Syria plans for June 3 election

Iran envoy row fails to make headway at UN

Amnesty: Qatar fails to protect domestic workers

US will deliver 10 Apache choppers to Egypt to counter terrorism

US expresses horror at South Sudan violence

Egypt's next president will have to deal with frustrated workers

Rival Palestinian leaders agree on national unity govt

Jumblatt backs lawmaker Henri Helou for Lebanon presidency

Global chemical watchdog: Syria weapons handover at 86.5 percent

Kerry ‘prefers’ Cold War-like situation to current complex challenges

Israel to call up Christian Arabs for military service

Egypt prosecutors submit new evidence in Jazeera trial