Iraq Seals Off Sunni Neighborhoods as Protests Continue

Troops Prevent March on Baghdad by Closing All Roads

by Jason Ditz, February 15, 2013

Members of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority had planned to march on the capital city today in the latest of months of Friday protests, but were stopped by the military, which forcibly closed all roads leading out of Sunni provinces and sealing off every Sunni neighborhood around Baghdad.

Tens of thousands rallied in the Anbar Provincial capital of Ramadi, with demonstrators demanding reforms and for the Maliki government to make good on post-election promises to include Sunni officials in the power-sharing deal.

Initially the Iraqiya Party, which is predominantly Sunni, was promised considerable power in a coalition government, including reports they were going to get the Defense portfolio. Years later, Maliki has still never appointed a Defense Minister, keeping the power to himself, and the two major Iraqiya positions, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Finance Minister Rafi Essawi, have seen repeated government raids on their offices.

Indeed, Hashemi is in exile at this point, with the Maliki government ordering him executed as a “terrorist” even though he has yet to be removed from office. Essawi had gone into hiding after his home was raided by the Interior Ministry, and reports are that troops moved against the Finance Ministry again this week.

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