Hundreds of women took to the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriya and Basra Feb. 13 to protest demands by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that women and men attending anti-government protests and encampments be segregated.
“We refuse,” 20-year-old Ruwayda Khteer told Al Jazeera. “We’re protesting for our rights because in Iraq they’ve been stolen.”
Al-Sadr, who heads the country’s largest parliamentary bloc and commands his own militia, has demanded his supporters pull out of the protest camps and called for attacks against them. He has urged protesters instead to support the efforts of prime minister-designate Mohammed Allawi to form a new government.
Since October hundreds of thousands of working people and youth have taken to the streets across southern Iraq to demand a halt to the political and military intervention in the country by both Tehran and Washington; for jobs and better living conditions; and for the fall of the government and an end to rule by parties that have long dominated the sectarian political system in the country. They insist that includes Allawi.
“We will give our soul and blood to Iraq and only Iraq,” sang women in Bagdad’s Tahrir Square.