BAGHDAD, Iraq (March 28, 10:23 am AST) – The U.S.-led coalition on Sunday shut down a weekly newspaper run by followers of a hardline Shiite Muslim cleric, saying its articles were increasing the threat of violence against occupation forces.
Hours after the closure of Al-Hawza, more than 1,000 supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated peacefully in front of the newspaper’s offices, decrying what they called a crackdown on freedom of expression.
Dozens of U.S. soldiers arrived at the Al-Hawza newspaper offices Sunday morning and closed its doors with chains and locks, sheik Abdel-Hadi Darraja said in front of the one-story house.
Darraja is a representative of al-Sadr, who lives in the southern holy city of Najaf and has been an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led occupation, but has not called for armed attacks.
OK, so Bremer is shutting down an Iraqi paper run by Muqtada al Sadr’s bunch. That seems pretty foolish to me, since it is inviting a retaliation. They really don’t need al Sadr on the warpath right now, do they? But aside from how dumb it is to do this totalitarian dictator act right now, how ridiculous is this?
A coalition spokesman confirmed the 60-day closure, saying several articles “were designed to incite violence against coalition forces and incite instability” in Iraq.
The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said any violation of the closure could lead to the imprisonment of newspaper employees for up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000.
Now, where did this rule come from? The new “constitution?” Is Bremer making this up as he goes? Is Bremer going to be running the jails in Iraq a year from now, or are the Iraqis just supposed to lock up whoever Bremer says to lock up?
One thing is certain. No one is “inciting violence” in Iraq better than the Americans with their military occupation enforcing Stalinist policies.
“What is happening now is what used to happen during the days of Saddam. No freedom of opinion. It is like the days of the Baath,” said Hussam Abd al-Kadhim, 25, a vendor who took part in the demonstration, referring to the Baath Party that ruled Iraq for 35 years until Saddam Hussein was ousted a year ago.
Well, at least the oil wells that haven’t been blown up got liberated.
Al-Sadr, who lives in the southern holy city of Najaf, is outspoken about the US-led occupation, but has not called for armed attacks.
A statement issued by his office on the newspaper’s closure said: “We ask everybody to come to the newspaper and stay there until it is reopened.”
OK, Bremer. Looks like it’s your move.