First Published: 2013-01-16

 

Iraq anti-Maliki protests continue unabated

 

Sunni Arab tribesmen have taken over centre of Samarra for weeks to protest against government’s ‘injustices’.

 

Middle East Online

By Guillaume Decamme - SAMARRA, Iraq

The glorify Iraq that date back to the rule of now-executed Saddam

For weeks, Sunni Arab tribesmen have taken over the centre of a city north of Baghdad, all with one goal -- to rail against the "injustices" of Iraq's Shiite-led authorities.

Although protests against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Shiite-led government have gripped Iraq since December 23, demonstrations in Samarra and surrounding Salaheddin province began relatively late.

But from January 1, the tribes of Samarra, whose influence is considerable, took over Al-Haq Square (Square of the Righteous) and invested in infrastructure that means their rallies now show no sign of petering out.

"We were novices in the art of demonstrating," admitted Naji Abbas al-Mizan, a spokesman for the demonstrators.

Thousands - exclusively men - brave the January cold and huddle together over cups of bitter coffee as loudspeakers blare songs glorifying Iraq that date back to the rule of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

They sleep in tents surrounding a large platform from where speeches are delivered. During the day, children wander around the square as Iraqi flags, including at least one flown during Saddam's rule, flutter in the wind.

The day is marked by the call to prayer at the nearby Al-Razzaq mosque, and the regular arrival of trucks of food. In the evening, microphones are handed to protesters who angrily criticise Maliki for having "insulted" them.

"The government in Baghdad should not exclude us or marginalise us," said Talal Khaled al-Sawi, a tribal leader. "We are denied jobs, we are denied our rights. The government does not investigate when our loved ones disappear, and it wants us to remain silent?"

Haitham al-Haddad, head of the Ashraf tribe in Samarra, said the rallies were being driven by the province's powerful tribes.

"All the tribes of Samarra are participating (in the protests)," said Haddad, wearing a traditional red and white chequered headscarf. "There are 25 tribes from Samarra, and 10 to 15 of their allied tribes."

Iraq's Sunni Arab minority has demonstrated in large numbers since late December, with protests sparked at first by the arrest of at least nine guards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi on terror charges.

They have decried the alleged wrongful arrest of members of their community and claimed the Shiite-led authorities misuse anti-terror laws to target Sunnis.

As time has gone on, their anger has focused on Maliki.

"Maliki has militias!" shouted Ahmed Haza, a young demonstrator who said he had suspended his studies in Ukraine to "stand beside my brothers ... (and) fight against injustice".

"He (Maliki) kills people, he has small armies at his disposal," Haza said. "He has to go!"

Maliki has responded with a carrot and stick approach. He has alternated offers of concessions and threats to direct the security forces to break up the protests -- in particular one rally in Anbar province that has blocked the main highway linking Baghdad to Syria and Jordan for more than three weeks.

Most recently, however, the government released 335 detainees and a top minister apologised for wrongfully holding inmates without charge.

Despite the conciliatory overtures, the rallies at Al-Haq square show little sign of abating, and continue to voice anger over maltreatment of the Sunni Arab minority.

Tribal leaders voiced frustration that their community remains a target of kidnappings and bombings. These occur far more frequently in Sunni areas, and in particular Salaheddin, than in the rest of Iraq.

Protesters and tribal leaders were keen to avoid enflaming sectarian tensions, with memories still fresh of Iraq's brutal communal bloodshed of recent years.

But while powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has forecast an "Iraqi spring" and publicly voiced support for the Sunni demonstrations, rallies in Shiite-majority areas have backed the premier.

"We call on our Shiite brothers in the south to protest, because we are all one people and we want to preserve national unity," said Abu Tareq, a 51-year-old retiree.

"We are all united by blood, and by the ties of Islam."

 

Saudi mosque attack intended to fan sectarian tension

Israeli deputy FM: 'All of it is ours'

Obama offers Tunisia closer security ties

IS fighters attack Iraq forces east of Ramadi

Israel solicits Platini to sway FIFA

Sudan's Islamists protest against el-Sisi

Islamic State claims Saudi mosque bombing

Islamic State reinforces ‘caliphate’ with control of borders

Iraqi forces to launch Ramadi offensive

Tunis asks Rome to extradite terror suspect

Suicide bomb attack on Saudi Shiite mosque

Saudi-led coalition warplanes pound Sanaa outskirts

Shebab gunmen raid Kenya village

Kuwait businessman Khorafi dies at 75

Yemen air strikes continue as Iran calls for talks

Israeli court orders release of Khalida Jarrar

Netanyahu meets with Arab leader Ayman Odeh

U.S. sanctions two companies linked to Iran's plane purchases

Iran supports Yemen talks, denounces foreign interference

IS militants call for attacks on Egypt's judges

11 killed in fresh Libya violence

Assad regime losses in Syria

Obama looks to bolster Tunisia's democratic gains

Turkey opposition unveils plan to build new 'mega-city' in Anatolia

Iraqi prime minister seeks Russian support against Islamic State

Iraq's Sunni tribes feel distrust towards Baghdad after Ramadi fall

Morocco illegal migrant arrest fuels Italy row

Qatar ‘failing to deliver’ on promised labour reforms

US to sell bombs, missiles to Israel, helicopters to Saudis

IS jihadists in full control of Syria's Palmyra

Yemen government wants rebel pullback before joining Geneva talks

Morocco King names four new ministers in second reshuffle

Gaza reconstruction going ‘far more slowly than expected’

France kills two jihadist chiefs in Sahel region

Clashes with ‘Islamic State’ rage on near Libya city of Sirte

Protests in Tunisia phosphate-producing region intensify

Iran aid ship to dock in Djibouti for inspection

Israel to face FIFA suspension bid

Letters of Bin Laden reveal accurate fear of surveillance

Yemen talks to open May 28 in Geneva

‘Islamic State’ fighters take control of Palmyra northern sector

Palestinian driver shot by Israeli police

New Egypt justice minister sworn in after judge's gaffe

IS, Syria regime locked in fierce battles near Palmyra

Rajoub: Conditions not ready for Israel-Palestine "match for peace"