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The Daily Journal: April 10, 2007

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Sadr Power and the American Occupation

From the Times: "Tens of thousands of protesters loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric, took to the streets of the holy city of Najaf on Monday in an extraordinarily disciplined rally to demand an end to the American military presence in Iraq, burning American flags and chanting "Death to America!" Residents said that the angry, boisterous demonstration was the largest in Najaf, the heart of Shiite religious power, since the American-led invasion in 2003. It took place on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and it was an obvious effort by Mr. Sadr to show the extent of his influence here in Iraq, even though he did not appear at the rally. Mr. Sadr went underground after the American military began a new security push in Baghdad on Feb. 14, and his whereabouts are unknown. […] The American military handed security oversight of the city and province of Najaf to the Iraqi government in December, and the calm atmosphere showed that the Iraqi security forces could maintain control, keeping suicide bombers away from an obvious target. In March, when millions of Shiite pilgrims flocked to the holy cities of the south, Iraqi security forces in provinces adjoining Najaf failed to stop bombers from killing scores of them. Vehicles were not allowed near Monday's march, and Baghdad had a daylong ban on traffic to prevent outbreaks of violence. During the protest in Najaf, Sadr followers draped themselves in Iraqi flags and waved them to symbolize national unity, and a small number of conservative Sunni Arabs took part in the march. […] In the four years of war, the only other person who has been able to call for protests of this scale has been Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, who, like Mr. Sadr, has a home in Najaf.
The protest was in some ways another challenge to the Shiite clerical hierarchy, showing that in the new Iraq, a violent young upstart like Mr. Sadr can command the masses right in the backyard of venerable clerics like Ayatollah Sistani. Mr. Sadr has increasingly tapped into a powerful desire among Shiites to stand up forcefully to both the American presence and militant Sunnis, and to ignore calls for moderation from older clerics." The full story...

Marital Rape in the Kingdom of Saud

From Arab News: "Saudi courts have recently seen a number of cases in which women have demanded divorces saying they have been subject to marital rape and unwanted sexual activities by their partners. As sex continues to remain a taboo subject in the Kingdom’s conservative society, some social activists believe that tribal traditions prevent women from coming out in the open and reporting sexual assaults. An Internet poll conducted by a local newspaper showed that 42 percent of married Saudi men say they do not have sexual problems. Meanwhile, 93 percent of married women surveyed said they were experiencing sexual problems. “Saudi society admits the existence of partner rape. A comprehensive survey of Saudi society about the issue and how serious it is has not yet been conducted,” Dr. Madeha Al-Ajroosh, a woman activist and psychologist, told Arab News. [...] According to state law, most countries in the world do not recognize the concept of rape within marriage. A UNICEF publication noted that, as of 1997, only 17 international countries had recognized marital rape as a crime." The full story...

 

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