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 Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid