U. S. Restricts Demonstrations In Iraq

January 4, 2004

By Aws Al-Sharqy

The following article is excerpted from the "Palestine Chronicle."

BAGHDAD - U.S. occupation authorities in Iraq have imposed strict restrictions on the right of the Iraqi people to demonstrate, particularly in the capital [of] Baghdad.

A statement issued by the U.S.-led authority and broadcast by the Iraqi media network Wednesday, December 31, said no individual or group is allowed to organize marches or demonstrations or even gather in streets, public places or buildings at any time without a prior permit from the occupation command.

It demanded those who want to demonstrate or organize a meeting submit a written request to the occupation authorities no less than a day before.

The request, according to the statement, must include the purpose and duration of the demonstration, an estimate of the maximum number of demonstrators and names and addresses of the organizers.

Detention Threat

If a permit is granted, the American statement said, demonstrators would not be allowed to wear the traditional galabiya (a loose shirt-like garment), helmets, hoods or even cover their faces.

Would-be Iraqi demonstrators must also not carry guns, even licensed ones, stones or sticks, added the statement.

Last but not least, any demonstration must not last more than four hours and should not be organized less than 500 meters away from the headquarters of the occupation forces and the affiliated institutions.

According to the statement issued by the U.S.-led occupation forces any "breach" of these restrictions will result in the detention and trial of the "violator".

Ridicule

Iraqi political analysts lashed out at the watertight restrictions, stressing they unmask the ugly face of the occupation, justified by sugar-coated clichés of bringing democracy to the oil-rich Arab country.

"It is unbelievable that a country boasting a democracy record would clamp such rigid restrictions on the simplest forms of freedom of expression, which is the right to demonstrate," said Dr. Abdel-Sattar Gawwad, a political expert, told IslamOnline.net.

"If the Americans are afraid of popular demonstrations, what would they do with spiraling resistance against their presence?

"Isn't it strange enough that the U.S. troops impose restrictions on demonstrators, assuming protestors will attack armed-to-the-teeth soldiers with stones?" Gawwad wondered.

"Does this tell you something about claims by the U.S. forces they were hardheartedly welcomed by Iraqis?"

Gawwad also underlined "the repressive practices of the occupation troops in Iraq such as the raiding of houses, killing of innocents and random detention of Iraqi citizens."