BAGHDAD – Many of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority held a day of civil disobedience on Monday to protest what they see as discrimination by the Shiite-led government.
Many schools, markets and government offices shut down in the provinces of Salahuddin in the country's center, Anbar in the west, and Ninevah in the northwest. Sunni areas in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, did not join the action however.
Organizers described the protest as a warning to the government, which they say has failed to meet demands of Sunnis, who have been staging weekly protests in various areas since late last year.
They are calling on the government to release Sunni detainees, cancel a tough counter-terrorism law they say targets them unfairly, and repeal the so-called De-Baathification law that led many of them to lose their government jobs because of past ties to former dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
"The large-scale response by our people is a clear message to Baghdad officials that they should stop targeting and killing Sunnis," said Mahmoud al-Badr, a protest organizer in Mosul.
Omar Abdullah, a government employee in the same northern city, said he and his colleagues in the pension department decided to stay home from work today in solidarity with the protest.
"It is true that we are government employees," said Abdullah, "yet we are part of the Mosul people who want to see their demands implemented sooner than later."
Government officials in Baghdad did not immediately comment on the issue. The Shiite-led government offered some concessions by releasing some detainees, but Sunni protesters said that this was not enough.
In the western city of Fallujah, Sunni cleric and protest organizer Khalid Mohammed warned that more steps would be taken by the protesters if the government continues to ignore their demands. He said that there are plans to close the vital high way linking Iraq with Jordan and Syria or even taking over the Iraqi border crossings with these two countries.