Demonstrations over Saddam in Baqubah, Baghdad
Al-Hayat reports that hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated in the eastern city of Baqubah on Sunday in favor of Saddam Hussein. They carried placards ridiculing his trial as “staged.” Some in the crowd were masked gunmen. They chanted, according to the BBC, “We will never give up on Iraq or Saddam. Saddam is the pride of my country in spite of Allawi.”
In contrast, in downtown Baghdad demonstrators burned Saddam in effigy and shouted that any lawyers who defended him would be defending barbarism and savagery.
The article does not say so, but obviously the pro-Saddam crowd in Baqubah is Sunnis, whereas the demonstration in Baghdad was made up of Shiites. Baqubah Sunnis live in a mixed province. A lot of Shiite Arabs and Shiite Faili Kurds have come back into it from exile in Iran, and the Sunnis no doubt fear being displaced or reduced to minority status. Saddam therefore means something to them far beyond his mere political rule. He is a symbol for them of their own high status and perquisites, which are now threatened.
The demonstrations, though relatively small, suggest the ways in which the trial of Saddam is likely to be extremely polarizing in Iraq and may well cause a good deal of trouble.