Protests engulf west Iraq as Anbar rises against Maliki

BBC News reports: The tribes of the mainly Sunni western Iraqi province of Anbar are furious at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and have picked an unusual spot to showcase their anger.

Along a stretch of the Iraqi international highway leading to Syria and Jordan, a tent city has sprung up, each tent bearing the banners of tribes and delegations from different cities.

The tent city, near the provincial capital of Ramadi, is the focal point of a wider protest movement which started after the army raided the office of a senior Sunni politician from the province, and arrested some of his bodyguards.

This comes more than a year after former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, another prominent Sunni leader, was charged with involvement in terrorism. He has since been handed three death sentences in absentia.

For the protesters, it all points to a campaign of revenge against the Sunnis of Iraq by a prime minister who they say is loyal to mainly Shia Iran.

They say the prime minister has unleashed a pliable judiciary on his political opponents in order to tame the opposition.

“We warn the sectarian government against dragging the country into sectarian war,” says the banner on the Fallujah Youth Council tent.

“Al-Boudiab tribe demands that the Maliki government release the Sunni men and women of Iraq from the government’s Persian jails,” reads the banner on another.

The most emotive issue is that of women prisoners the protesters say have been arrested instead of husbands or sons who are wanted on charges of terrorism.

“It’s now a question of honour,” said Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman, one of the most powerful tribal sheikhs in Anbar, to loud applause from the protesters.

“Not politics, not the constitution, not even the United Nations can resolve it. We want the women released here in the square.” [Continue reading…]

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