Anti-Maliki Protests draw
thousands in Iraq Thousands of Iraqi demonstratorsin Sunni-majority areas demand
fall of Iraqi government.
thousandsMiddle East Online BAGHDAD:
Thousands of people in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq called on Friday for the
government's fall amid a spike in violence that has accompanied a political
stalemate two months before provincial polls.
The demonstrations, which have been ongoing for
nearly two months, have steadfastly urged for the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki while decrying the alleged targeting of minority Sunnis by the
On Friday, the protests began after weekly Muslim
prayers in Mosul, Samarra, Kirkuk, Baquba, Ramadi and Fallujah -- all
predominantly Sunni -- as well as Sunni-majority areas of Baghdad under heavy
security as the central government has voiced fears the rallies had been
infiltrated by militants.
"There is no meaning to freedom in a country where
criminals are free," read one banner in Samarra, while another warned central
government officials, "Baghdad, we are coming".
"The rulers must look at the conditions of the
people who, in spite of their poverty and pain, continue to live," said Sheikh
Abu Ala al-Hassani, in a speech to protesters in Mosul.
"Now, we have passed 50 days on strike, and we are
still demanding ... that officials be held responsible."
The demonstrations were initially sparked in
December by the arrest of several guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a
leading Sunni, and the longest-running of them have blocked off a key trade
route linking Baghdad to Jordan and Syria.
But they have since expanded markedly, and the
government has sought to curtail them by claiming to have released thousands of
detainees and raising the salaries of Sunni militiamen fighting Al-Qaeda
It has also restricted movements in major cities
on Fridays, when the largest of these protests are held.
Maliki, meanwhile, has been grappling with a
political crisis that has pitted him against many of his government partners
barely two months before provincial elections, Iraq's first since March 2010