Demonstration in Samarra
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat/ AFP: Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated Tuesday in Samarra, demanding the withdrawal of American troops from their city. Clan elders and school and university students participated in the rally, which came in response to a call from the municipal council and the Association of Muslim Scholars. The demonstrators gathered close to the Malwiyah Mosque, among the most famous and recognizable of Iraq’s early Islamic monuments. They carried placards reading, “Leave our sacred city, you strangers!” and “Let the Prisoners Go!” and “No, no to enmity . . . Leave, leave, America!” They burned an American flag. Police and Iraqi army men fanned out around the site of the demonstration. No American troops showed up, and they stayed at some distance from the demonstration.
Samarra is a city of about 200,000 that lies about an hour’s drive north of Baghdad. It is largely Sunni Arab, but has a Shiite neighborhood and hosts a major Shiite shrine. Both that shrine and the famed Malwiyah Mosque have been damaged in the fighting of the past year.
A different sort of demonstration was held in Kut, according to BBC world monitoring.
Al-Mashriq publishes on page 4 a 100-word report saying that hundreds of policemen and emergency patrols demonstrated in Al-Kut in Wasit, calling on the new governorate council not to interfere with police work . . .
What this demonstration may have been about is suggested by another report:
Al-Sabah al-Jadid publishes on page 2 a 150-word report stating that the Interior Ministry has rejected the decision issued by the Wasit Governorate Council regarding the dismissal of the Wasit police chief and his assistant . . .
(A similat struggle has roiled Najaf recently.)
Meanwhile, Mohammad Bazzi of Newsday points out that Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers to wave only Iraqi flags in the massive demonstrations held last weekend, and that he may be trying to reach out to other anti-American communities. Bazzi speculates that Sadr is using street demonstrations to make the point that he cannot be ignored as the constitution is forged. (Muqtada actually probably has over 20 supporters in parliament, more than the Sunni Arabs).