Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Iraqi Sunni MPs accuse security forces of sectarianism - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

A man walks past an election campaign poster of Mohammed Abed Al-Kazem Aqeeli (C) of Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition in Baghdad April 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Ahmed Saad)

A man walks past an election campaign poster of Mohammed Abed Al-Kazem Aqeeli (C) of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition in Baghdad April 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Ahmed Saad)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s parliamentary speaker and leader of the Mutahidoun bloc, Osama Al-Nujaifi, accused the Iraqi security forces of conspiring with sectarian militias to exclude Sunnis from the forthcoming elections on Saturday.

Following a meeting with religious scholars, Nujaifi issued a statement which said: “There is a malicious scheme to threaten Sunnis in order to exclude them from the elections, in addition to an attempt to effect a demographic change in their areas.”

Nujaifi added: “This plan is being implemented by sectarian militias, and what is worrying is that they operate under the sponsorship and knowledge of the security departments which are supposed to work according to the law to protect the citizens, whatever their sect . . . the Baghdad map has changed and whole areas have been vacated, and when calm was restored, the original inhabitants did not return to their homes, especially the Sunnis.”

The speaker blamed “criminal gangs” for the violence, rather than Iraqi Shi’ites at large.

Iraq’s vast western province, Anbar, has been rocked by violence since the end of last year, after insurgents expelled government forces from the province’s two main cities, Ramadi and Fallujah.

The government, together with allied tribal fighters, have been attempting to recapture Fallujah ever since, and has recently expanded operations eastwards in an attempt to stop the clashes spreading towards Baghdad.

The violence followed a year of mounting sectarian tension, with major public protests against the government of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, with many Sunni residents of Anbar accusing the government and security forces of sectarian bias.

Despite his allegations, Nujaifi called for all Iraqis to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled to take place on April 30.

“The clear and correct way to achieve change is through political process and through the constitution despite our reservations about it, and with the wide participation in the elections,” the speaker said.

Meanwhile, another leading figure in the Mutahidoun bloc, Issam Al-Obaidi, a parliamentary candidate for the Mada’in district on the outskirts of Baghdad, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The phenomenon which the speaker of the parliament Nujaifi spoke about is not new, but it has increased recently as the elections drew nearer.”

Obaidi accused the security forces and associated militias of trying to intimidate residents in districts likely to vote for his party, on the pretext of targeting jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and of attempting to distract Iraqis from the failure of the security forces to recapture the city of Fallujah.

He said: “Government media sources started recently to leak reports that armed men from [ISIS] were deploying in the Baghdad belt areas, in order to excuse the launch of operations against the Arab Sunnis and justify the actions of the militias.”

However, the head of the association of tribal leaders in the Baghdad Belt, Iyad Al-Jubouri, denied the Mutahidoun leaders’ claims.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The phenomenon which the parliament speaker talked about is not as dangerous as he stated. They are isolated incidents which could happen in any area by militias who are affiliated with either side and who exploit the lack of security in some areas, whether they are Shi’ites or Sunnis, and that is what has happened in areas like Diyala.”

Jubouri added: “The arrests which the security forces carry out are in accordance with legal warrants and in most cases we as tribal leaders intervene to learn about the reasons and motives to reduce the damage as much as possible . . . there is an exaggeration in what Nujaifi said; we see these comments as part of the election battle which is now raging between all parties.”