Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims are protesting against the government of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the anti-terrorism laws and the police. In Fallujah (50 km west of Baghdad), about 60 thousand people blocked the main road leading to Baghdad. Protesters burnt flags and effigies of Shiite Islam, shouted slogans against the government accused of being manipulated by Iran. The Sunnis have expressed their support for the Syrian rebels who for the past 20 months have been fighting President Bashar Al - Assad who belongs to the minority of Alawites close to Shiite Islam.
According to local media people want to emulate the "Arab Spring" which in 2011 led to the fall of governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. The climax of the protests was reached yesterday in Ramadi, with more than 100 thousand people along the road that leads to the border with Syria and Jordan. Other protests have taken place after Friday prayers in Mosul, Kurdistan, Samarra and Tikrit. Riots were sparked by the arrest in Anbar province (western Iraq) of 10 bodyguards of Rafia al-Issawi, Minister of Finance, one of the main leaders of the Sunni faction of the government.
The Sunnis were the dominant faction in Iraq for decades during Saddam Hussein's regime, guilty of the genocide of the Shia minority. With the fall of the dictator in 2003, the international forces opted for a rise to power of the Shiite faction that gave way to a gradual marginalization of its opponents. The contrast between the two groups, however, has also led to a real conflict involving al-Qaeda terrorists and various extremist movements from neighbouring Iran, regarded as the main supporter of the government of al-Maliki.