Friday, December 28, 2012

Protests throughout Iraq

Iraqis dubbed today "Friday of Honor" (following the Wednesday of Dignity protests earlier this week). 
Kitabat reports that "millions" came out to protest in Anbar Province today.  Their photo of Falluja shows the large crowd with banners, flags and a huge photo of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi (last week, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of 150 staff and bodyguards working for al-Issawi -- 10 have been charged with 'terrorism' and 50 have been released, this was seen as politically motivated).  The Falluja protesters demanded that innocent people be released from detention and end to the 'terror' arrests, an end to politicizing the Iraqi military, that Nouri turn over the soldier who raped the girl in Mosul and more.  They chanted for unity and for an end to sectarianism and Nouri's abusive government.  AP goes with the more conservative estimate of "tens of thousands" of people protesting.  Al Jazeera (link has video) also goes with "thousands:"

Massive demonstrations took place along a major highway near the city of Fallujah on Friday, a day after thousands of protesters continued an almost week-long blockade on a key highway in the western Anbar province.
Protests erupted last week after Iraqi authorities detained 10 bodyguards of the finance minister, who is from Anbar and is one of the government's most senior Sunni officials.
Many Sunnis accuse Maliki of marginalising the country's religious minority group by refusing to share power and depriving them of equal rights.

Alsumaria notes "hundreds" protested in Mosul at noon and their demands were similar with the addition of they called for the execution of the soldier who raped the young girl.  All Iraq News adds that the protesters called for all charges against al-Issawi's bodyguards to be dropped.  Alsumaria notes that Samarra saw thousands turn out and their calls were similar but they also want the long promised amnesty law implemented and they want the Justice and Accountability Commission dissolved (the Commission was used most infamously in the 2010 elections to disqualify various Sunnis from running for office -- that includes the current Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq).  AP adds that protests took place today in Tikrit as well.

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes:

The protests began last week after troops detained bodyguards and aides of Finance Minister Rafie al-Essawi, while searching his home and offices on December 20. The government has claimed that it arrested only ten of the minister’s bodyguards on charges of “terrorism.” But Essawi, a member of the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, charged that over 100 people connected to his staff were rounded up by what he said was a “militia force” controlled by Maliki’s supporters.
It appears that the discrepancy arises from the fact that only the bodyguards were subjected to formal arrest, while the others were essentially subjected to extra-legal detention and interrogation.
Addressing Maliki in a statement to the Iraqi media, Essawi stated, “You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people.”
The finance minister told Associated Press that Maliki was deliberately seeking to stoke sectarian conflicts between the Sunni and Shia populations. “These practices are aimed at drawing the country into a sectarian conflict again by creating crisis and targeting prominent national figures,” he said.
The incident was essentially a replay of a similar crackdown carried out a year ago, on December 19, 2011, the day after the last US troops ended the more than eight-year American occupation of Iraq. Then the target was Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also a Sunni member of the Iraqiya bloc.

While the protests took place, Nouri attempted to distract by giving a speech.  Alsumaria notes he was forced to admit that the budget for 2013 (that should be Fiscal Year 2013 unless something's changed) did not and would not improve the problems facing Iraqi citizens.  For those who may have stepped out of the main room for a moment, that is no longer just the lack of basic services like electricity, potable water, trash pick up, etc.  No, add flooding to the list as Iraq -- especially Baghdad -- finds itself flooded as a result of Nouri's refusal for the last six years to spend money on the infrastructure.  Home are collapsing, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society evacuated one village this month.  But Nouri says these problems will not be addressed in the budget.

In other news, All Iraq News reports that there's an update from the medical tem in Germany for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.  They are stating that he is showing positive improvement and that he is "responsive."  After what?  They don't say.  The President's office and family have not identified the health condition that left Talabani hospitalized; however, Nouri al-Maliki's office immediately declared it was a stroke.  Al Mada notes that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal's political party, is calling for the media to be accurate when covering Talabani's (unspecified) health condition.

Liz Sly is the Washington Post correspondent for the Middle East.  She's going to be on a program today as the top Tweet notes, also check out the next Tweet (terrorist warning) and the two Tweets on the protests today:

Coming up at 1600GMT - the latest edition of 'The Brief!' We'll talk with Washington Post correspondent
US Embassy Baghdad warns of terrorist threat to US targets, on Dec 31. 1st time since withdrawal via
Unhinging now MT : Levant &Gulf cd be seriously unhinged in 2013: Iraq Sunnis in big anti-govt rallies
Democracy in Iraq MT : 4.5 hours at checkpoint w media-Anbar protests have begun, reports of big crowds. Army keeping us here.

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