24 January, 2020
By SJA Jafri + Agencies
BAGHDAD/ TEHRAN/ MELBOURNE: Iraqis from all walks of life have gathered in the capital Baghdad to denounce US military presence in the country after the assassination of Lt. Gen. Qassem Suleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was second-in-command of the Iraq’s PMU, in Baghdad by the US earlier this month.
In the early hours of Friday, thousands of men, women and children of all ages massed under grey skies in the Jadiriyah district of east Baghdad. Iraqis in Karbala city, south of Baghdad, were also seen boarding buses heading towards the capital.
Protesters are carrying banners and chanting slogans calling for the expulsion of US forces.
The protests, termed the “Friday of Independence”, are being held upon calls by influential cleric Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr to stage “a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations.”
According to Reuters, new checkpoints were installed across the capital by late Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the major rally.
Various Iraqi resistance groups affiliated with the country’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have also backed the anti-American rally.
Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which is part of the PMU, has described Friday’s rallies as a “second revolution” a century after the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920, when Iraqis staged mass demonstrations against British forces that had occupied Iraq at the time.
On January 5, the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the expulsion of all US-led forces in the country two days after Washington assassinated Suleimani and Muhandis.