Hundreds rally after Iraq deadline expires
BAGHDAD - Agence France-Presse | 6/10/2011 12:00:00 AM |
Hundreds took to the streets of Iraqi cities on Friday, denouncing what they say was a lack of government progress after a 100-day deadline set by PM al-Maliki expired.
Hundreds took to the streets of Iraqi cities on Friday, denouncing what they say was a lack of government progress after a 100-day deadline set by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expired.
About 400 protesters converged at Baghdad's main Tahrir Square, carrying banners and chanting slogans against al-Maliki's government and calling for better public services, notably electricity.
But the demonstration was overshadowed by a larger rally of some 3,000 people, also at Tahrir Square, calling for the execution of 25 accused insurgents, whom authorities allege took part in the 2006 massacre of a wedding party.
Security forces were out in large numbers at the square, which was closed to vehicle traffic. The thoroughfare is located in the heart of Baghdad, the traditional site for weekly demonstrations.
Hundreds of anti-government protesters also converged in the city of Hilla and Basra, both south of Baghdad. Authorities have also banned vehicle traffic in Tikrit city and Diyala province, north of the capital.
"Our hearts are stronger than your government," declared a banner carried by anti-government demonstrators at Tahrir Square.
"We want the government to improve basic services," read another banner, carried by a trio of women wearing red, white and black scarves, representing the colors of the Iraqi flag.
"I am protesting against everything because everything is wrong," said Mohammed Jassim, a 28-year-old an unemployed protester.
In Baghdad, a small scuffle erupted after about a dozen demonstrators calling for the deaths of the insurgents rushed into the group of rival protesters and began to assault several of them before running away.
In response to the February rallies, Iraq reallocated $900 million originally earmarked to purchase fighter planes to buying food for the poor, reserved $400 million for generator fuel to power air conditioners over the hot summer, and started demonstrable projects such as roadworks and sewage repairs.