Friday, January 18, 2013

Protests continue in Iraq

Protests continued in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports thousands (check out the photo with the article) turned out today in Salah al-Din to demand that Article IV ('terrorism' law) be abolished and that an amnesty law be adopted.  A sizeable turnout showed up in Hawija as well, Alsumaria notes, and they were out in full force in solidarity with demonstrators in Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar. They demanded that the protesters be listened to, that prisoners and detainees be released.

The prisoners.  Over 18,000 -- and possibly over 30,000 -- prisoners in Iraq were arrested on 'terrorism' under Article IV.   Al Mada reports that Wednesday members of Parliament called for a real release and not the for-show stunt Nouri executed earlier this week (which the press lapped up like well-trained dogs).  The for-show stunt was an attempt to defuse the protests.  As turnout today is proving, that didn't work on anyone except some elements of the press.
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets this morning:

  1. Thousands rally in Sunni-majority areas of , calling for Maliki to go: Pix:
  2. . pictures of today's demonstrations in Baghdad, including a couple by yours truly:

AAP notes that protesters turned out in Baghdad, Samarra and Mosul.  In Baghdad they shouted "We don't want committees, we want our rights!" and "Release the prisoners!" while in Samarra they chanted, "They have made promises before, and they made promises yesterday, but let them hear -- we will stay, protesting, until we get our rights."  Next Friday is the day to watch for the protests in Iraq. 

On the issue of prisoners and detainees, protesters have accused Nouri's government of using Article IV to target Sunnis.  Kitabat reports today that 90% of the managers in Nouri's Ministry of the Interior are Shi'ite and either members of Nouri's political party or friends with Nouri.  The Ministry itself has no real head because Nouri never nominated anyone -- that was part of his power-grab.  Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections and is headed by Ayad Allawi) rightly called it a power-grab in January 2011 but the western press assured everyone it was only temporary and that, in a matter of weeks, Nouri would nominate people to head the ministries.
Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." That's still true today.  

Nouri's forces attacked the Mosul protesters earlier this month.  From the January 7th snapshot:

Protests continued today in Iraq and they [the protesters] were injured in Mosul.  All Iraq News reports the Iraqi military attacked the protesters today.  First they fired shots in the air and second they attacked the protesters with batons.  The army then closed the public square.  Alsumaria countsAl Sharqiya reports that soldiers using batons beat protesters.   They add that they protesters had been taking part in a sit-in when the miliatry attacked with batons and at least three people were injured (they have a photo of at least two people on stretchers).   Reuters quotes Nineveh Province Governor Atheel (Ethel) al-Nujaifi declaring, "Security forces opened fire and used batons to disperse demonstrators."  This assault was in contrast to the wishes of the Nineveh government (Mosul is in Nineveh Province).  As Alsumaria notes, the provincial government had ordered that the square be open to the protesters.  Alsumaria notes that Nineveh Council has announced they are opening an investigation as a result of the military crackdown on the protesters.  
On that attack,  Aswat al-Iraq reports today:

The Parliamentary committee entrusted to investigate the aggression against Mosul demonstrators expressed conviction that aggressive actions were committed against them by the security force.
Member of the committee MP Hassan Khala Alou, in a press conference, attended by Aswat al-Iraq, said that the committee met a number of demonstrators who were attacked by the security forces on 7 January instant and saw films that proved these actions.
He added that the security force entrusted for the protection of Ahrar square did not respond for the investigation under the pretext of waiting permission from Baghdad.

In related news, Kitabat notes Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanti favors limiting the three presidencies to two terms.  The Constitution limits the President of Iraq to two terms.  The other two of the three presidencies are Speaker of Parliament and Prime Minister.  The Parliament is currently discussing a proposed bill.

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