Human Rights, Anti-Terror (and somewhat Anti-American) Demonstrations
The demonstrations for human rights and against terrorism in several Iraqi
cities on Wednesday were organized by parties represented on the Interim
Governing Council. Althought the US press has tended to portray these
rallies as pro-American, they were far more ambiguous than that. The
organizers were able to get out about 5,000 demonstrators in
Baghdad, and smaller crowds gathered in other cities. One group that
mobilized its cadres for this demonstration was the Iraqi Communist
Party. Its supporters waved red flags emblazoned with the hammer and
sickle, according to ash-Sharq al-Awsat. It seems obvious that the
CPI was more likely demonstrating for human rights and against the
Baathists than in favor of the US per se. Other participants included the
Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi, feminist groups, and some
clerics and their followers. AFP said some demonstrators spoke of their
gratitude to the US for overthrowing Saddam, while others called the
Baathists “fascists” and vowed they would not be allowed to come back.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat said that 2500 demonstrators came out in the holy
cities of Najaf and Karbala. But they carried placards calling for the
immediate turn-over of authority in Iraq by the Americans to the Iraqis.
As usual with demonstrations, various groups used them for their own
purposes. It is hard to see how a demand that the US give sovereignty
back to the Iraqis right now can be seen as pro-American.
The occasion of the demonstrations was actually the international day of
The numbers reported on such occasions are usually inflated. What is
remarkable to me is that the parties who called for the demonstrations
were only able to get out a small number of supporters. All these
factions together could not produce a crowd the size of the ones Muqtada
al-Sadr seems able to assemble at will.