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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid