Top Sunni Cleric Encourages Iraqi Protests Against Maliki

Leading Sunni cleric Abdul Malek al-Saadi does not support negotiations with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, reports Hussein Ali Daoud.

al-monitor Protesters call for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's resignation during a demonstration in Falluja, a main city in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar, 30 miles west of Baghdad, Dec. 21, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Stringer.

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sunni, iraq

Jan 24, 2013

Al-Hayat recently learned that ministers and members of parliament (MPs) from the provinces of Anbar, Mosul and Saladin have failed to gain the support of Sunni cleric Abdul Malek al-Saadi during negotiations with the Shiite National Iraqi Alliance (NIA) regarding anti-government protesters' demands. Saadi announced his refusal to meet with any political or parliamentary bloc.

Likewise, the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has refused to meet with any politician for more than two years.

Furthermore, yesterday's [Jan. 21] meeting of the parliamentary committee charged with reviewing the protesters’ demands failed to produce any positive results, after the Iraqiya List boycotted the meeting and accused the NIA of procrastinating and putting forth “incomplete solutions.”

A reliable source from Saadi’s office told Al-Hayat in a telephone interview that “the statements made by some politicians claiming that Sheikh Saadi has abandoned protesters are unfounded.” The source added, “The sheikh is in Jordan for medical treatment, but his representatives, most importantly his son, are still in Anbar.”

“Sheikh Saadi was perfectly clear when he informed Anbar’s politicians, along with ministers and politicians of other cities where anti-government protests are taking place, that he does not support their negotiations over the protesters' demands. He also stressed the need to form popular committees of protesters to negotiate with the government,” the source added.

A number of ministers and MPs from Anbar province have been absent from demonstrations that have gone on for four weeks. It has been reported that the city’s clerics have prevented politicians from participating in the ongoing protests.

Regarding Saadi’s statement about his refusal to meet with politicians, the source said that “Saadi’s office has received dozens of requests, including some from senior officials affiliated with the NIA and others with Iraqiya List, but he refused to meet with any of them.”

In a statement, Saadi’s office declared that “over the past few days there have been increasing requests by several politicians and MPs to meet with the sheikh in his private office."

"However, he apologized for not receiving any politician or MP. He also expressed his refusal to meet individually with any of those who wish to see him. Instead, the sheikh demanded that they meet with the protesters, who are calling for their most basic rights as Iraqis, in the squares where they are holding sit-ins,” the statement added.

Saadi, who is known as the "Mufti of Sunnis" in Iraq, arrived from his residence in Jordan to Anbar earlier this month. He addressed the protesters, urging them to unify their message and ranks, and not to use unbefitting slogans. He also said that the government is to blame for the citizens’ protests.

Saadi is the second high-ranking cleric in Iraq to refuse to meet with Iraqi politicians. Sistani made the same decision nearly two years ago.

Mosul witnessed civil disobedience yesterday, as shops and government institutions closed their doors for the day in response to the people's committee call. Meanwhile, the people of the town of Hawija in Kirkuk province launched an open-ended sit-in in solidarity with the Anbar and Saladin protesters. 

In a telephone interview with Al-Hayat yesterday, Atheel al-Najafi, the governor of Mosul, accused “the State of Law Coalition — led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — of procrastinating in addressing the protesters' demands, who have called for new trials of detainees in the city.”

Nujaifi added, “We received reports that the State of Law Coalition has refused to lay down a new formula or to amend the accountability and justice law. The coalition agreed on certain exceptions, which it has unfortunately used to serve its own interests.”

Moreover, the Mosul Provincial Council declared in a statement that “a meeting was held in the presence of members of the provincial council, the governor and representatives of the protesters to discuss their demands and the government’s responsiveness to this effect.”

According to the statement, “The provincial council announced its support for the protesters’ demands, while the government did not send any representatives from its side to the city.”

In Anbar, on the other hand, Sheik Mohammed al-Bajari, spokesman for tribes in Fallujah, said in a telephone interview with Al-Hayat that “new squares will be open to stage sit-ins during the next few days.” He added, “The protesters’ patience is shortening. We warn the government to heed their calls lest they demand that the government be overthrown.”

Regarding the committees formed by the government and parliament to address the people’s demands, Bajari said that “these committees are infective and have not so much as sent a representative to the sit-ins.”

He also said that recent decisions made by these committees are “only pro forma to buy the government time. While the government declared the release of 300 detainees, we obtained information that it has arrested more people, as part of its security operations.”

Furthermore, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who faces the death penalty, said, “Reform and good governance in Iraq can only be achieved following the departure of Prime Minister Maliki and the dismissal of Medhat al-Mahmoud, the head of the Supreme Judicial Council.”

In a statement, Hashemi said that Maliki “is deceitful and that Mahmoud has placed the judiciary at the prime minister’s disposal.” He added that “the Central Criminal Court of Iraq has issued a death sentence against Suheil Karim, one of his bodyguards.”

The vice president added that the “sentence was issued amid sweeping protests across Iraq, calling for an end to injustice and reforms in the judiciary. The sentence is further proof of Maliki’s intransigent refusal to fulfill protesters’ demands.”

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