Iraqi Shia turn against their 'liberators'

Far from winning over hearts and minds, US-led occupation forces in Iraq are mostly reaping hatred.

    Protests against the occupation forces are spreading

    The trend is best showcased in the Shia-dominated slum of Baghdad, once called Saddam City.

    Its residents had given the occupying forces a joyous welcome when Baghdad fell some months ago. But today, they are seething in anger at the occupation.

    Besides a change in name - the slum is now called the Sadr City in honour of a leading Shia leader, Ayat Allah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, killed by Saddam Hussein - its mood has changed as well.

    "We were happy at first when the Americans came. Now they should keep out, no one wants them around," shop-owner Jasm Kathai said.

    The upshot has been daily protests, which turned into open fury last Wednesday when a US helicopter appeared to try to knock off a religious flag from atop a mosque.

    Iraqis were outraged.

    "What they did to the flag was a grave insult to Islam. There will be consequences," added the shop-owner.

    In protests on the same day, one Iraqi was killed and four others injured.

    "They provoked this … they shot first," Waleed Kathim, a 25-year-old electric repairman screamed in rage.

    ''We were happy at first when the Americans came. Now they should keep out, no one wants them around''

    Shia resident

    On Friday, chants of "Yes for Islam, No to America" rose from far corners of Sadr City. 

    Rumours also circulated of a prominent local leader forming a militia to fight the occupying forces.

    Young men hung around the mosque of Shaikh Abdul Hadi al-Daraji who in a sermon Friday demanded a better apology from the US and compensation for the victims of their firing.

    "The people here have had terrible difficulties for years. After the war, we have the same problems. Nothing has changed," complained a shop-worker.

    "Look around you - the dirt, the unemployment, the lack of electricity, the thieves. If the Americans can't do anything, they should leave us to solve our own problems," he said.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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