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Iraqis Rage Against U.S. Puppet Dictatorship

Iraqis Rage Against U.S. Puppet Dictatorship

Washington Post
February 26, 2011

BAGHDAD – Iraqi security forces detained hundreds of people, including prominent journalists, artists and intellectuals, witnesses said Saturday, a day after nationwide demonstrations brought tens of thousands of Iraqis into the streets and ended with soldiers shooting into crowds.

Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.

“It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists,” said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. “Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq.”

Protesters mostly stayed home Saturday, following more than a dozen demonstrations across the country Friday that killed at least 29 people, as crowds stormed provincial buildings, forced local officials to resign, freed prisoners and otherwise demanded more from a government they only recently had a chance to elect.

“I have demands!” Salma Mikahil, 48, cried out from Tahrir Square on Friday, as military helicopters and snipers looked down on thousands of people bearing handmade signs and olive branches signifying peace. “I want to see if Maliki can accept that I live on this,” Mikahil said, waving a 1,000-dinar note, worth less than a dollar, toward Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s offices. “I want to see if his conscience accepts it.”

The protests – billed as Iraq’s “Day of Rage” – were intended to call for reform of Maliki’s government, not revolution. From the southern city of Basra to northern cities of Kurdistan, protesters demanded the simple dignities of adequate electricity, clean water and a decent job.

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