Supporters of the Sadrist Current demonstrated in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Friday demanding that the Iraqi government provide protection for minorities, especially the Turkmen minority in the province.
Followers of the populist Shi'a trend took to the streets after the Friday prayers in the Sadrist Khaz'al al-Tamimi mosque in central Kirkuk, chanting slogans and carrying signs and Iraqi flags.
Shaykh Ra'd al-Sarkhi, the director of the Sadrist offices in Kirkuk, said “We came out to day to demonstrate our demands that the government protect minorities and guarantee their rights, especially those of the Turkmen.”
A bomb blast in Taza Khurmatu, a predominantly Turkmen town in Kirkuk Province, killed over 80 people last Friday.
“Today we ask the Iraqi government to remain committed to the specific date for the American withdrawal and to hand over the security file to the Iraqis” in Kirkuk, al-Sarkhi added.
The local Sadrist leader also said the protestors demanded that the government install machinery to detect explosives in Kirkuk and to pass a national security law.
“We ask the Iraqi people to support the security forces in the province to preserve the security and unity of Iraq, and especially Kirkuk,” al-Sarkhi said. Oil-rich Kirkuk province is the subject of overlapping claims to its territory, pitting the province’s Kurdish population, many of whom seeking to attach the province administration to the Kurdistan autonomous zone to the north, against its Arab and Turkmen populations who have opposed these demands.
The Sadrist demonstrators also asked the Iraqi government to purge the security forces of “followers of the occupation, of terrorism, and of the Ba'th, all enemies of the Iraqi people,” al-Sarkhi added.
Demonstrators carried signs bearing the slogan “No to America, No to Israel, Unity among Iraqis,” along with Iraqi flags and photos of the Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Current.