Major anti-government protests have erupted among Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority today in the capital city of Baghdad as well as Ramadi and Samara, with demonstrators accusing the Maliki government of biased policies against Sunnis.
The government responded to the protests with riot police across Baghdad, blocking the Sunnis from marching to a religiously important mosque and dispersing them with batons and fire hoses.
The Maliki government has prevented Sunnis from holding traditional Friday prayers in the Abu Hanifa Mosque two weeks in a row now, fearing (likely correctly) that the worshipers would protest after the end of prayers. Mosques have been a primary organizing place for Arab Spring uprisings across the region.
The Sunnis have been protesting off and on for months, condemning the Maliki government for policies that have forced top Sunni officials to either resign, as with former Finance Minister Rafie Issawi, or flee into exile, as with Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who Maliki has accused of being a terrorist.