News / Middle East

Iraq Reels Under Intensifying Political Divide

Iraq Reels Under Intensifying Political Dividei
X
January 14, 2013 5:20 PM
Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Iraq in the last month, rallying against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Sunni protestors accuse their Shi'ite prime minister of marginalizing their sect and consolidating power. As Selah Hennessy reports for VOA, analysts say the sectarian divide is likely to intensify.
Iraq Reels Under Intensifying Political Divide
Selah Hennessy
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Iraq in the last month, rallying against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  Many of the Sunni protesters accuse their Shi'ite prime minister of marginalizing their sect and consolidating power.

Rising anti-government protests, mostly by Sunnis, have rocked Iraq since December.  Many Sunnis are calling for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. They also want the release of detainees they say are being held without trial -- and the suspension of an anti-terrorism law they say targets Sunnis unfairly.

Maliki’s Shi'ite supporters have also taken to the streets, in what is becoming escalating sectarian strife.

In London, analyst Chris Doyle says Sunnis have long felt sidelined by the country’s Shi’ite-led government.  “They feel like they are second class citizens -- that the government of Nouri al-Maliki, the State of Law Party, essentially is a Shi’a nationalist government that has not in any way, in their view, looked after their interests,” he said.

The protests began in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province after the army arrested the bodyguards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafa al-Issawi.
 
He is the most high profile Sunni Cabinet member since Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was dismissed from office, accused of running death squads.  A death warrant has been issued against Hashemi in absentia  He says the charges are trumped up for political reasons.

Influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a rival to Maliki, has shown support for the protesters -- and told Alhurra TV that Iraq’s sects must be united.

He says as long as the demonstrators make clear demands this is a democratic and peaceful expression.  He says everyone should deal with it in a civilized way.

Maliki has taken some steps to stem the unrest -- including a promise to release 700 female prisoners.

Middle East expert Jamie Ingram says Maliki may be facing an uphill struggle. “I think he has been quite taken aback by this. He’s attempted to calm down the situation but also things like closing the border crossing with Jordan to try to put greater economic pressure on the protesters -- that is probably going to backfire,” Ingram stated.

The Arab-led central government also remains embroiled in a dispute with the largely-autonomous Kurdish north over oil and land.  And both Kurdish and Sunni ministers have boycotted Cabinet meetings in support of the protesters.

One year after U.S. troops left Iraq, observers say the fragile network of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds may be unraveling.

“It is a crisis that is just getting worse and worse and we are seeing protests and if there is not a resolution of these tensions then it could obviously escalate into a greater crisis,” said Doyle.

Provincial elections are set to take place in April and analysts expect the unrest to continue until then.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid