Tens of thousands of Iraqis staged a huge demonstration in Baghdad on Saturday, calling for an end to the occupation. Some estimates put the turnout at up to 300,000 — the biggest Iraqi protest since the invasion.
The organisers appealed to the anti-war movement in Britain to make ending the occupation an issue in the election.
The protest, called by rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and largely ignored by the British media, marked the second anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Marchers came from the slums of Baghdad and the cities of southern Iraq.
Up to 5,000 also marched in Ramadi. Sheikh Harth al-Dhari, of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, called on the Iraqi people to speak “with one united voice” to demand an end to the occupation.
The huge Baghdad demonstration filled Firdaws Square, where US troops pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in front of a handful of onlookers in 2003.
Protesters chanted, “No, no to the occupiers,” and in a gesture everyone in the anti-war movement will recognise, they carried big cardboard cut-outs of George Bush and Tony Blair, their teeth dripping with blood.
Sheikh Hassan al-Zarqani, foreign affairs spokesperson for Moqtada al-Sadr, told Socialist Worker, “The main demand of the demonstration is the end of the occupation and a timetable for the peaceful withdrawal of US and British troops. We want a complete withdrawal without conditions.
“We have a message for the people of Britain as you enter your elections—do not believe the lies Tony Blair or George Bush tell about Iraq.
“The Iraqi people never threatened Britain, nor will we ever threaten Britain. So why are you sending your sons to kill our sons? We ask that you bring your sons home so that we are not in the terrible situation where we kill each other.
“We find hope in the people of Britain who demonstrated against the presence of British troops in Iraq. Now use the freedom you enjoy in Britain to end this terrible occupation.”