Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iraqi Shi'a Demonstrate Against Al-Jazeera

Protest in Al-Sadr City, Baghdad (RFE/RL) 14 December 2005 -- Thousands of demonstrators protested in Baghdad and some Shi'ite cities today over comments in an Al-Jazeera television discussion program that they said insulted Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

In one southern town, police intervened when marchers turned their anger on a campaign office of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who leads a secular coalition. There were protests in Al-Najaf, Karbala, Al-Basrah, and other cities.

The protesters were offended by comments by a guest on Al-Jazeera yesterday who reportedly said al-Sistani should stay out of politics. The comments were reported by the Iraqi satellite channel Al-Furat, which is owned by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shi'ite party belonging to the increasingly fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance coalition.

Al-Sistani's blessing for the United Iraqi Alliance is seen as important to its success in the January elections for the current interim National Assembly.

"Al-Jazeera are terrorists," read one banner above about 5,000 protesters in Baghdad's Shi'ite Al-Sadr City district.

Armed police joined the chanting by about 1,000 marchers in the Shi'ite holy city of Al-Najaf, al-Sistani's base, demanding an apology from Al-Jazeera and shouting slogans against Sunni leaders and Allawi.

Al-Jazeera journalists were banned from working in Iraq after government complaints that the channel favored Sunni insurgents.

Iraqi Legislative Elections 2005

Iraqi Legislative Elections 2005

RFE/RL's coverage, background, and analysis of Iraq's December 15, 2005, legislative elections.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.