Thursday, March 17, 2011

Protests in Iraq

"What we have passed through is like a dark dream," said [Basaam] Abdulrizak, referring to the U.S invasion and the sectarian bloodshed that claimed relatives, friends and his own youth. "We believe in Iraq as the primary identity, not sect or religion."
It would be easy to dismiss such pronouncements as youthful romanticism, and the more cynical do. The demonstrations here, calling for reform, not revolt, have been relatively small. And Iraq is different, the refrain goes: a place fractured along sectarian, tribal and class lines, divisions mirrored in a governing elite that derives its power from them.

The above is from Stephanie McCrummen's "In Iraq protests, a younger generation finds its voice" (Washington Post and Foreign Policy). Despite repeated efforts to stop the Friday protests, they have so far continued and are expected to take place again tomorrow. However, there is a new development.

Aswat al-Iraq notes yesterday saw "hundreds" in Karbala protesting on behalf of the people of Bahrain. Mohammed Taqi al-Mudarrisy is quoted declaring, "The demonstrators have demanded Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces and stop its interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain, and the demonstrators have demanded the Iraqi government to announce a firm attitude against such 'savage' interferences, also calling on the Iraqi Parliament and the political officials to take a 'brave attitude' to force Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces from Bahrain." al-Mudarrisy is a Shi'ite and, as Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) observes, "A regional showdown over Bahrain is exacerbating the split between Iraqi Shi'ites and Sunnis, who see the machinations of their neighbors through the lens of the sectarian divide that led to years of war in Iraq." Al Rafidayn reports Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is making statements and Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for protests in Baghdad and Basra on Friday.

Both al-Sistani and al-Sadr previously attempted to stop a Friday protest (they were unsuccessful) so their actions at present may be sincere or they may be an attempt to derail the protests against the Iraqi government. The possibility becomes only more worth considering when you grasp that Nouri al-Maliki has shown no solidarity with protesters in other countries but suddenly is speaking out on this issue. Sincere or not, their actions risk (as they should be aware) re-inflaming sectarian tensions within Iraq. Tomorrow's protests will be interesting even though they will probably be ignored by the US press again. AP will file, possibly the Washington Post and that will be it for the US outlets as we have seen week after week.

Related, Inas Tariq (Al Mada) reports that the Iraqi forces are importanting large quantities of "electric batons" (stun batons) with the intent to use them on demonstrators. The Integrity Commission's Sabah al-Saadi has stated in response that attacking the demonstrators would be contrary to the Constitution and that instead of importing 'electric' batons, the government should have been working on delivering electricity to the people. Meanwhile Ali Hussein (Al Mada) wonders what would happen if Nouri al-Maliki showed up for the protests in Baghdad's Tahrir Square (also known as "Liberation Square") tomorrow. Hussein explains the thought was inspired by a photo of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shaking hands and speaking in Tahrir Square.

While Iraqis are scheduled to protest tomorrow, in the US, protests are expected to take place Saturday, A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in these action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

Click this link to endorse the March 19, 2011, Call to Action.

We'll close with this from Kathleen Kirwin's "Peace is not your to give, Mr. President" (War Is A Crime):

As I listened to a friend and colleague in Afghanistan a few days ago, the difference I discerned in his voice from previous conversations was visceral. That he unswervingly and joyfully dedicates his every thought, word and deed to advocating for peace in Afghanistan through peaceful means made his tone and tenor all the more heart-wrenching. Our phone connection was not clear, but I thought I heard him say something akin to: I never thought I would hear myself say that the Afghan people need hope now more than they need peace. What I know I did hear him say distinctly, however, was: “The people have nothing to lose now. They are being killed anyway.”

That you, Mr. Obama, are now singularly responsible for stealing the hope of the ordinary People of Afghanistan is an abomination. That you continue to steal it in the way that you do, however, is a crime of the deepest shame. I have come to know my friend well enough to know that he does not “hurt” for himself because of the hopelessness and pain you inflict, but rather for each and every individual person who makes up the “ordinary” People of Afghanistan: the infants and small children, the youth a few years older, the elders, the women who care for all, and the men who now find themselves having to protect their families against you. Such is the legacy you have created for yourself.

For his safety, my friend’s name shall remain anonymous, but his sentiments shall not, if I have anything to say about it, Mr. President, which I do. (See, First Amendment to the United States Constitution: Right to Petition government for Redress of Grievances.)

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