Jan 11 2013

Al Jazeera: Anti-government protests sweep Iraq

Thousands of Sunni Iraqis have taken to the streets of Baghdad and other parts of the country to decry the alleged targeting of their minority, in rallies hardening opposition to the country’s Shia leader.

Counter-demonstrations were held on Friday in predominantly Shia areas of southern Iraq calling for authorities to resist demands to reform anti-terror laws or consider a wide-ranging prisoner release, both key demands in majority-Sunni areas.

The protests have worsened a political crisis, pitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki against his erstwhile government partners, with the premier facing accusations of authoritarianism and sectarianism ahead of key provincial polls.

Anti-government protests were held in Baghdad’s mostly-Sunni districts of Adhamiyah and Ghazaliyah, as well as the cities of Ramadi, Samarra, Mosul and Tikrit, AFP news agency journalists said.

Several smaller towns north of Baghdad also held rallies.

In Ghazaliyah, hundreds of protesters rallied after Friday prayers at the Umm al-Qura mosque, holding up banners calling for the repeal of anti-terror laws, the release of women prisoners, and improved human rights in jails.

“These sounds do not represent only one community,” Ahmed Abdulghafur al-Samarraie, head of the foundation that manages Sunni mosques across Iraq, said in a speech at the rally, referring to the shouts of protesters.

“No, these are the sounds of Iraqis from all over Iraq, all shouting ‘No to suffering, no to the absence of services, no to injustice, no to foreign agendas, no to conflict, no to the return of the Baath, Qaeda or militias, no to torturing until death.”

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