News / Middle East

    Iraq's Sadr Demands 'Fair Implementation' of National Security Laws

    Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks with the Alhurra television network. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks with the Alhurra television network.
    x
    Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks with the Alhurra television network.
    Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks with the Alhurra television network.

    Iraq's prominent radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for the fair implementation of national security laws that have drawn weeks of protests from minority Sunnis who see them as biased against their community.

    In an interview with VOA's sister television network, Alhurra, al-Sadr said he agreed with Sunni protesters that the government of Iraq's Shi'ite prime minister has been acting in a biased way.  "We believe the problem is in the implementation of the [security] laws, and not the laws themselves," al-Sadr said.

    He said his Shi'ite political movement wants Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to fairly apply the laws, which enable the detention of suspected terrorists and the removal of officials linked to the Baath party of Iraq's former Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein.  Al-Sadr's party, the Sadrist Trend, is a member of Maliki's ruling coalition and has 40 seats in the 325-member parliament. 

    Sunni complaints

    Thousands of Iraqi Sunnis have been staging weeks of anti-government protests across the country, denouncing what they see as Maliki's use of the security laws to target and marginalize the Sunni minority.  The protests erupted last month in response to security forces detaining the bodyguards of Iraq's Sunni finance minister - one of the few Sunni members of Maliki's Cabinet.

    Many Sunni demonstrators also accuse the prime minister of acting like a dictator and want him to resign.  In the largest protest, Sunnis have blocked a key highway for three weeks in the western province of Anbar.

    In the interview, al-Sadr expressed sympathy for the protests, saying he does not differentiate between fellow Shi'ites and Sunnis.  "What is happening in Anbar province is not a crisis, but a healthy phenomenon that reflects a popular and democratic movement," al-Sadr said. 

    Calls for reform

    He also said most Sunni demonstrators want the controversial security laws to be reformed rather than eliminated.  "They are only against the way [the laws] are being implemented.  They are for de-Baathification [of the government], but without discrimination."

    Al-Sadr suggested Maliki should resign over the crisis. "The prime minister should act as a father figure to all Iraqis.  If the father does not play a just and fair role between his children, he does not deserve the title of father figure."

    But the Shi'ite cleric declined to join the protesters' demand for an amnesty to be granted to Sunni women detained under the anti-terrorism law.  When asked about the demand, al-Sadr said he believes the law has been implemented "badly," but he also added that "all of us want to fight terrorism."

    Maliki's response

    The Iraqi prime minister has said that he will not tolerate mass anti-government protests indefinitely and warned the government has the ability to re-open the blocked Anbar provincial highway.  He also has accused Sunni partners in his ruling coalition of stalling legislation and being uncooperative in an effort to undermine him.

    Hundreds of Iraqi Shi'ite supporters of Maliki staged a counter-demonstration Saturday in Baghdad, urging him to resist calls for a prisoner amnesty and changes to the security laws.

    The anti-government protests have put further strain on Iraq's fragile coalition government as its Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions prepare to challenge each other and the opposition in provincial elections in April. 


    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora