09 April, 2009
End the American Occupation of Iraq!!!
The demonstrators in Firdos Square were mostly young men, jubilant despite the pouring rain. Halfway up the decaying green concrete sculpture that replaced the towering image of Saddam Hussein, high school student Karar Abdul Hussein, himself symbolic of the new Iraq, clambered up to get a better view and wave an Iraqi flag.
"We were so happy when they brought down the statue, but now we want the occupation to end. The Americans are very tough against the Iraqis," he says after being persuaded to climb back down and talk.
"This is not democracy," says Nahab Nehme, a hospital worker, holding one end of a pro-Sadr banner. "When America came, they didn't do anything for Iraq - they moved Saddam out, but he was their servant, and the people who are in power now are their servants, too."
"We demand that President Obama stand with the Iraqi people by ending the occupation to fulfill his promises he made to the world," Ali al-Marwani told the crowd.
"No, no to America; no, no to Israel," the demonstrators chanted, an echo of protests organized by Saddam Hussein before the war. Supporters also burned an effigy of former President George W. Bush.
"God unite us, return our riches, free the prisoners from the prisons, return sovereignty to our country ... free our country from the occupier, and prevent the occupier from stealing our oil," read Sadr's message.