- Title: IRAQ/FILE: Six years on, huge protest marks the fall of Baghdad
- Date: 10th April 2009
- Summary: BAGHDAD, IRAQ (FILE - APRIL 9, 2003) U.S. MARINE ON TANK, MOSQUE IN BACKGROUND CROWD OF YOUNG MEN WALKING IN STREET, WALKING PAST U.S. TANKS CROWD REACHING STATUE OF FORMER IRAQI PRESIDENT SADDAM HUSSEIN YOUTHS TYING NOOSE AROUND STATUE'S NECK VARIOUS OF MEN ATTACKING BASE OF STATUE VARIOUS OF U.S. MARINE TYING U.S. FLAG AROUND FACE OF STATUE IRAQI MAN WAVING U.S. FLAG ON STATUE PODIUM VARIOUS OF STATUE BEING PULLED TOWARDS GROUND/CROWD CHEERING CROWD ATTACKING FALLEN STATUE
- Embargoed: 25th April 2009 13:00
- Topics: War / Fighting,International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA8GAXGF8495PDGCKARCSUTBR4S
- Story Text: Tens of thousands of Iraqis take to the Baghdad streets to mark the sixth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein's government. Iraqis have differing views on the country's development over the following years.
Tens of thousands of followers of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr thronged Baghdad on Thursday (April 9) to mark the sixth anniversary of the city's fall to U.S. troops, and to demand they leave immediately.
"Down, down USA," the demonstrators chanted as Sadrist officials denounced the U.S. occupation of Iraq that began with the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdos Square.
The crowds of Sadr supporters stretched from the giant Sadr City slum in northeast Baghdad to the square around 5 km (3 miles) away. Many clutched or wore Iraqi flags, and some wore Iraqi national team tracksuits in a show of nationalist sentiment.
Protesters burned an effigy featuring the face of former U.S. President George W. Bush, who ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and also the face of Saddam.
Many at the demonstration did not trust the United States to live up to the commitment to withdraw.
"Those million people came from Iraq to express just one opinion that is calling for the U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq. They are Arabs, Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites, they came after the call of Sayyid Moqtada al-sadr to say No! No! to America," said Hazem al-A'raji, a senior aide of the Sadr office in Baghdad.
U.S. President Barack Oabama, who flew into Baghdad on an unannounced visit on Tuesday (April 7), has ordered all U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of August 2010, leaving a residual force of 35,000-50,000 trainers, advisers and logistics personnel.
Iraqis have divided views over Iraq's current situation.
Some welcome the changes that have occurred over the last six years, saying that April 9, 2003 marked a good point in Iraq's history.
Makki al-Baghdadi is one of the Baghdad residents who was in Firdos Square the day Saddam's statue fell.
"This is the day when the statue was toppled, when Iraqis took to the street to express their happiness. I was among those who took to the streets. The sculpture behind me was erected in place of Saddam's statue," he said.
But another resident, Khalid, says the day marks bad memories for Iraqis who see the war as devastating their country.
"We do not want to remember this day... This is the day when Iraqi people were destroyed and the institutions collapsed. As an Iraqi citizen I try to avoid remembering this day. ...This day is just a distraction. We have no jobs, we have no fuel and no basic services. What did the U.S. troops do for us?" he said.
Political analyst Ibrahim al-Sumaidee says mistakes should be forgiven and a strong Iraq would be a source of strength in the region and the world.
"The people will forgive the big mistakes that took place after the invasion by the Republican administration. The invasion, which some people call an occupation, while others call liberation. But I think that what has happened has happened, and there is a dramatic change occurring in the region.
Therefore Iraqis, Arab and international countries should distance themselves from the name calling, everybody has to know that a strong and stable Iraq would be in everyone's interest," he said.
The years following the war saw tens of thousands of Iraqis killed or displaced by violence and civil conflict.
Violence has dropped sharply over the past year, although al Qaeda and other insurgents are still capable of launching frequent large-scale attacks.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None