Up to 300,000 Demonstrate in Baghdad
Edmund Sanders reports that the crowds in downtown Baghdad protesting the US troop presence in the country may have been as large as 300,000. If it were even half that, these would be the largest popular demonstrations in Iraq since 1958! To any extent that they show popular sentiment shifting in Shiite areas to Muqtada al-Sadr’s position on the American presence, they would indicate that he is winning politically even though the US defeated his militia militarily.
Big demonstrations were also held in Ramadi and in Najaf.
In Baghad, Shaikh Mu’ayyad al-Khazraji, a Sadr aide, said that the demonstrations would continue, to pressure the parliament to demand a US withdrawal.
Al-Hayat reports that Muqtada urged his followers not to bear arms and were not to reply with gunfire if they were shot at by the Americans, saying that God would be responsible for defeating the Occupiers.” The demonstrators demanded a swift trial of Saddam Hussein, a timetable for US withdrawal, the release of Iraqis detained by the US, and an end to the marginalization of the opposition. The demonstrators carried effigies of Saddam Hussein, President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, each labeled “International Terrorist.” Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says that the crowds also demanded an end to torture in Iraqi prisons.
Off to the side a small crowd of Iraqi Christians joined in the demonstration, with placards saying, “We support the call of Sayyid Muqtada for national unity.”
In a sermon read for him, Muqtada accused the United States of double standards– allowing Israel to have the bomb but bothering Muslim powers who have a nuclear program.
The demonstration’s magnitude appears to have convinced prime minister designate, Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa Party, to begin speaking once again of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
The United Arab Front in Kirkuk demanded the creation of a militia to protect the Arabs of that city from the Kurdish “security militias” [i.e. the Kurdish-dominated police force in the city]. Shaikh Wasfi al-Asi, the leader of the Front, said that Iraq is an Arab country and an inseparable part of the Arab world, and that it is inappropriate for Jalal Talabani to be president, because he is a Kurd and is trying to evict Arabs from Kirkuk. (Al-Asi is a good representative of the peculiar Iraqi Baath racism that ran wild in the Saddam era).
Telling Tidbits from Iraqi newspapers via BBC World Monitoring for April 5:
“Al-Mu’tamar publishes on the front page a 120-word report citing a source as saying that Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani expressed reservations about giving ministerial posts to the members of the United Iraqi Alliance because they will be distracted from the most important task – drafting the constitution.” . . .
Al-Adalah carries on page 1 a 300-word report citing National Assembly member Ali al-Dabbagh as saying that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the assembly members to grant the Sunni Arabs “complete freedom” in nominating their candidate for the vice-presidential post . . .
Al-Da’wah carries on the front page a 100-word report citing Ahmad al-Safi, Al-Sistani’s representative and National Assembly member, as calling for taking into consideration the minorities’ rights in drafting the constitution . . .
Al-Da’wah publishes on page 2 a 75-word report citing National Assembly member Maytham Hanzal in Dhi Qar as resigning from the National Assembly and that he wants to dedicate his time to teaching . . .
Al-Zaman publishes on the front page a 220-word report citing Khalid al-Marsumi, member of the Iraqi Communist Party’s Central Committee, describing the attack on his party’s headquarters in Al-Sadr City in Baghdad on 3 April as “ideological terrorism”.
Al-Zaman publishes on the front page a 200-word report citing Sunni Waqf Chairman Dr Adnan Muhammad Salman al-Dulaymi urging the Iraqi government and US forces to release the more than 80 mosque imams, who have been detained since 9 April 2003 . . .
Al-Furat publishes on the front page a 120-word “exclusive” report citing a Saudi national, a former detainee at Abu Ghurayb Prison, describing the killing of a baby in front of his mother in the prison . . .
Al-Ufuq runs on page 4 a 200-word report citing Dr Hasan al-Janabi, the former adviser in the Water Resources Ministry, as saying that there is a shortage of drinking water, especially in the southern governorates.
Al-Ufuq publishes on page 5 a 100-word report stating that the cabinet has issued a resolution that bans dealing with 74 international pharmaceutical companies because they did not fulfil their commitments towards Iraq . . .
Al-Dustur publishes on page 6 a 1,000-word report describing life in Al-Batawiyyin District in central Baghdad. The report says that it is the main centre for criminal gangs, drug trafficking, prostitution, the trafficking of human organs, and other organized crimes . . .
Al-Da’wah runs on page 2 a 100-word report citing Karbala Municipality Director Abd Un as saying that the delay in municipality services in Karbala is due to the absence of the allocations for carrying out a campaign for removing the trash in the governorate . . .
Al-Bayan publishes on page 2 a 100-word report citing Municipality and Public Works Minister Nisrin Mustafa Barwari as saying that the ministry has reinstated 2,800 persons, who were dismissed for political reasons during the former regime . . .”