A massive demonstration –called for by a prominent Shia cleric– has flooded the streets of the Iraq’s capital Baghdad, with thousands voicing their anger at the US military presence there.
Early on Friday morning, throngs of protesters – men and women, young and old – began amassing at al-Hurriya Square in central Baghdad, near the city’s main university. The anti-America rally, dubbed the “Million-man March,” was called by Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric.
Some were wearing white robes, symbolizing their readiness to die for a religious cause, while others were pictured holding signs that read: “To the families of American soldiers – insist on the withdrawal of [your] sons from our country or prepare their coffins!”
“Get out, get out, occupier!” protesters shouted, while others chanted, “Yes to sovereignty!”
Security forces have cordoned off main roads in the capital, and the city’s Green Zone – home to foreign embassies and government premises – was barricaded with concrete barriers.
There are no reports yet on protesters heading for the US embassy, but a banner warning against crossing the barriers has reportedly been erected outside the mission.
The march comes just weeks after Iraq was shaken by an American drone strike near Baghdad airport, which killed Iran’s top General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chief of Iraq’s Shia militia, along with other officers.
Aside from triggering a flare-up of military tensions and a retaliatory Iranian strike on US bases in Iraq, the killing sparked outrage among those Iraqis who see the 16-year American troop presence in their country as an unlawful occupation.
Official Baghdad, for its part, blamed Washington for breaching its sovereignty, with the lawmakers of the Islamic republic having passed a non-binding resolution calling on the government to expel all foreign troops from the country.
US media has suggested that the Pentagon was planning the withdrawal of its 5,000 troops from Iraq, but these reports were officially refuted afterwards.
Huge Crowds in Baghdad Call for the Ouster of US Forces from Iraq
24 January، 2020
Huge crowds of Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad on Friday to demand the ouster of US troops from the country.
The demonstration set off from al-Jadriyah and al-Karrada regions adjacent to the Green Zone in central Baghdad.
The demonstrators raised the national flags, chanted slogans rejecting the US presence on Iraqi soil and denounced the criminal actions committed by the US administration by targeting Iraqi military forces and resistance leaders.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces have taken strict measures and cut a number of roads in central Baghdad in coincidence with the start of the massive demonstration, according to an Iraqi security source.
In statements to SANA correspondent in Baghdad, a number of demonstrators confirmed that the US military presence is the cause of all the dilemmas that Iraq is witnessing.
They demanded the immediate implementation of the Iraqi Parliament’s resolution which call for the expulsion of the US and foreign forces from all Iraqi lands.
This demonstration, according to demonstrators, represents a real popular referendum on the rejection of any US military presence in the country.
On January 5, the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution bending the government to end the foreign presence in the country after the US crimes against Iraqi military headquarters and high ranking Iraqi and friendly resistance leaders.