Demonstrations in Basra supporting al-Seistani's call for authority transfer
Iraq, Military, 1/16/2004
Thousands of Iraqis yesterday took the streets of al-Basra city, in support of the call made by the supreme Shiite religious leader in Iraq, Ayatullah Ali al-Seistani, to make direct elections within months in order to choose a sovereign Iraqi government.
Some 60,000 Iraqis took part in the demonstration, stressing their opposition to the proposed mechanism of the Interim Governing Council and asking for the occupation authority to transfer authority to the Iraqis.
The demonstrators headed for a latge mosque in the downtown of the city, chanting slogans supporting various religious leaders, and called for not margining the role of the Iraqi people and chanted slogans like "yes, yes for al-Seistani, no no for appointments."
The demonstration were protected by the Iraqi police, over which helicopters for the British forces flew and dropped publications describing the demonstration as an expression of democracy.
Al-Seistani opposes American plans to transfer authority to the Iraqis that call for non-elected committees to choose a provisional Iraqi government, as being an undemocratic mechanism. He demands that the authority will be elected directly, while the Americans rule out the organization of such elections before the date set for the first of July 2004.
In Baghdad, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets deploring proposals to convert Iraq into a federal state, and calling for the unity of the country.
In al-Nasereyah city to the south of Iraq, some 300 unemployed persons demonstrated in front of the occupation authority in the city, demanding finding out solutions for their situations, in a peaceful demonstration that did not witness clashes.
Meantime, the American occupation forces continued acts of breaking in to detain Iraqi resistance fighters, and announced it had detained 11 persons from one family in Khan Dari area, to the west of Baghdad, on Wednesday evening.
One member of this family was killed last week when the American forces broke into a library, in the downtown of Baghdad, for arresting him on charge of joining the Iraqi resistance, according to the family of the killed man.
On the other hand, the Sans Frontier journalists organization said that killing two journalists in a hotel in Baghdad by an American shelling, came as a result of "criminal negligence," the current American administration is partially responsible for.
In a special report, the organization said that firing the shell was not a deliberate attack against the mass media, but the American soldiers should be informed by their leaders that a large number of journalists are staying in this hotel.
In Baghdad,hundreds of Iraqi women gathered in Um al-Qura mosque to protest against the practices of the occupation forces, and the French decision to ban the veil for Muslim women in France. the chairpersons of the Islamic league of the Iraqi women Sukeina al-Sumeid'e ' we call on the French leadership to give up its decision in banning the veil.
They demanded the occupation forces to stop breaking into houses and stop detaining women, as well as using them as means of pressure, and to honor traditions of the Iraqi society.
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