Thousands Gather to Echo Call of Anti-US Shi’ite Cleric

News article, posted 09.18.2011, from Baghdad, Iraq, in:
Ali Shatab
Thousands Gather to Echo Call of Anti-US Shi’ite Cleric (Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of followers of anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr marched in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Friday calling for an end to US presence in Iraq, and for the immediate implementation of reforms in the nation’s government.

Demonstrators demanded that the government to allocate oil revenue to improve country’s failing infrastructure, and that jobs be provided to alleviate growing Iraqi unemployment. In addition to the flags and banners, protesters carried two black coffins with signs reading “I want my share of oil.”

Activists began congregating in the early hours of the morning in the square, located in the north of the capital. By early afternoon, following traditional Muslim Friday prayers, the gathering had grown to several thousand. The protest had been organized by the head of the Shi’ite Islamist Sadirst Movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has warned that he would renew militant activity against US troops if they remain in Iraq passed the current December deadline.

Thousands of other Sadr followers also marched across the country in cities such as Najaf, demanding improved services and an end to US occupation.