Friday, February 1, 2013

Iraqis protest as Maliki names mediator

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, appointed a senior Shiite figure to talk to demonstrators about demands as tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims protested after Friday prayers in huge rallies against the Shiite premier, amidst renewed sectarian unrest. Sunni outrage has erupted over alleged abuses and discrimination against the minority sect since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of a Shiite majority. Waving former flags from the Hussein era, Sunni clerics, tribal sheiks and young protesters called for reform of anti-terrorism laws they maintain security forces abuse to target Sunnis and unfairly detain prisoners. Maliki has offered concessions, and even freed hundreds of prisoners. But Sunni protesters grew defiant after soldiers opened fire at a Falluja city rally, killing five people a week ago. They want the Iraqi army to leave the area. Evolving protests challenge an already fragile government that splits posts among Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds, who are deadlocked on power sharing. Since American troops pulled out a year ago, sectarian tensions are running high. As such, Maliki appointed a mediator to dialogue with demonstrators about demands such as an amnesty law and easing of so-called de-Baathification campaign against former members of Saddam's outlawed Baath party. The Shiite National Alliance coalition and Sunni-backed Iraqiya had been positive on proposed reforms and report progress. Baghdad is also struggling with a dispute in the autonomous Kurdistan region over oil and land rights, complicating Maliki's attempts to build alliances with Sunni and Kurdish leaders. See full article here--