Tuesday, January 20, 2004

100,000 demand Iraqi elections: "Today's demonstration saw a huge crowd of Shia Muslims, estimated by reporters at up to 100,000 strong, march about three miles to the University of al-Mustansariyah, where a representative of their spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, delivered a speech directed at the parties to the meeting at the UN headquarters. Ayatollah Sistani, the country's most influential Shia leader, has rejected a US formula to transfer power via a provisional legislature selected by 18 regional caucuses. He insists instead upon full-blown national elections."

""The sons of the Iraqi people demand a political system based on direct elections and a constitution that realises justice and equality for everyone," Ayatollah Sistani's representative, Hashem al-Awad, told the crowd. "Anything other than that will prompt people to have their own say." The crowd responded by chanting: "Yes, yes to elections. No, no to occupation." ... Many marchers linked hands, while others carried portraits of Ayatollah Sistani and other Shia leaders and waved banners saying "real democracy means real elections"."

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