Ranj Alaaldin writes: In 1964, the Shia population of Iraq’s south gathered in the holy city of Karbala to protest against the sectarian, predominantly Sunni, government of Abdul Salam Al Arif.
Witness accounts, as well as US and UK diplomatic cables, say that tens of thousands, perhaps over 100,000, rallied against the regime, which had come to power in Iraq through a military coup the previous year.
Through the rest of the 1960s tensions continued to increase between the authoritarian, Sunni-dominated government and the Shia community, marginalised by a range of government policies that made life harder for them.
In the decades that followed, the Shia were increasingly and violently oppressed under Iraq’s Baath regime and its dictatorial leader, Saddam Hussein.
Now, almost 50 years later, the tables have turned, and Iraq’s Sunni population is complaining – peacefully and violently – of being excluded and discriminated against.
About 60,000 were in the streets of the Anbar city of Fallujah on Friday. Recent weeks have seen many such protests, in Anbar and across the primarily Sunni provinces of the north, the region that formed the heart of the Sunni insurgency after Hussein was deposed.
These people are protesting against a lack of political recognition, failure of basic services and alleged indiscriminate anti-terror raids and arrests.
The demonstrations started after the controversial arrest of the bodyguards of the country’s finance minister Rafi Issawi, a Sunni.
Those arrests came just a year after the equally controversial arrest warrant for the country’s vice-president, Tariq Al Hashimi, who is now living in Turkey.
All of this reflects the dysfunctional politics in Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has failed to lead anything even remotely resembling a serious, efficient and effective government. [Continue reading…]