100,000 Sadrists March Against Constitution
Reuters reports that Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters rallied in 8 cities on Friday, totaling a hundred thousand demonstrators in all. They chanted against the new constitution, which they characterized as an American-authored document. They also complained about lack of electricity and other services. Al-Sadr’s followers rallied in Kufa, Najaf,Baghdad (Sadr City), Nasiriyah, Amarah, Basra and elsewhere.
I saw the demonstrations on al-Jazeera and they were in fact just enormous. I have all along said that I think Muqtada al-Sadr is formidable, that those who underestimate him are making a mistake. But these demonstrations are evidence of a quantum leap in Muqtada’s organizational capability. He has never been able to bring out more than 5,000 to 10,000 demonstrators before. It is obvious his group has continued to do underground recruiting and networking while he has been relatively quiet and his Mahdi Army mostly put their guns in the closet. This impressive display suggests that it might well be possible for Muqtada to bring out 2/3s of Maysan Province, where he is very influential, against the constitution.
Al-Zaman/ AFP/ DPA: The situation in Karbala grew tense on Friday after one of the aides of Muqtada al-Sadr was killed and four others were wounded in clashes with the Iraqi police in the Qarshi district of the city, near the shrine of Imam Husain (the martyred grandson of the Prophet).
In the city of Kifl, unknown persons burned down the HQ of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI is a rival to the Sadr movement. Pro-SCIRI crowds in Najaf had recently burned down the office of the Sadr Movement in that city.
In Najaf, the al-Zaman correspondent reports only light movement in the streets, with heavy Iraqi police and army presence. American helicopters circled overhead. The city gates have been completely closed and no one is allowed to enter except funeral processions. The gates of the shrine of Imam Ali (son-in-law of the Prophet) had also been locked.