by Aws Al-Sharqy
(IPS) BAGHDAD --
occupation authorities in Iraq have imposed strict restrictions on the right of the Iraqi people to demonstrate, particularly in the capital Baghdad, in what Iraqi political analysts described as the real face of sugar-coated democracy cliches.
A statement issued by the U.S.-led authority and broadcast by the Iraqi media network Wednesday, December 31, said no individual or group is allowed to organize marches or demonstrations or even gather in streets, public places or buildings at any time without a prior from the occupation command.
It demanded those who want to demonstrate or organize a meeting submit a written request to the occupation authorities no less than a day before.
The request, according to the statement, must include the purpose and duration of the demonstration, an estimate of the maximum number of demonstrators and names and addresses of the organizers.
If a permit is granted, the American statement said, demonstrators would not be allowed to wear the traditional galabiya (a loose shirt-like garment), helmets, hoods or even cover their faces.
Would-be Iraqi demonstrators must also not carry guns, even licensed ones, stones or sticks, added the statement.
Last but not least, any demonstration must not last more than four hours and should not be organized less than 500 meters away from the headquarters of the occupation forces and the affiliated institutions.
According to the statement issued by the U.S.-led occupation forces any "breach" of these restrictions will result in the detention and trial of the "violator."
Iraqi political analysts lashed out at the watertight restrictions, stressing they unmask the ugly face of the occupation, justified by sugar-coated clichˇs of bringing democracy to the oil-rich Arab country.
"It is unbelievable that a country boasting a democracy record would clamp such rigid restrictions on the simplest forms of freedom of expression, which is the right to demonstrate," said Dr. Abdel-Sattar Gawwad, a political expert, told IslamOnline.net.
"If the Americans are afraid of popular demonstrations, what would they do with spiraling resistance against their presence? "Isn't it strange enough that the U.S. troops impose restrictions on demonstrators? Why assuming protestors will attack armed-to-the-teeth soldiers with stones?" Gawwad wondered.
"Does this tell you something about claims by the U.S. forces they were hardheartedly welcomed by Iraqis?" added the political analyst.
He also denounced "the repressive practices of the occupation troops in Iraq such as the raiding of houses, killing of innocents and random detention of Iraqi citizens." Such practices, Gawwad added, fanned armed resistance against the U.S.-led occupation of the country.
Mohiel-Din Ismail, an Iraqi writer, agreed that such restrictions unveil the logic of occupation.
They give the people hollow promises, restrict their freedoms and now deprive them of the simplest right to demonstrate, he added.
"Where, then, is the (U.S.-sanctioned) Governing Council? Isn't it -- as claimed -- the highest authority in Iraq? Should it wait instructions from (U.S. administrator of Iraq) Paul Bremer and the White House?" Ismail wondered.
U.S.-led occupation forces have repeatedly opened fire at Iraqi demonstrators, killing and wounding many of them.
Amnesty International said Friday, November 21, U.S. forces appeared to be destroying houses in Iraq as a form of collective punishment for attacks on U.S. troops and warned that the practice would violate the Geneva Conventions.
Iraqi civilians are often exposed to random shooting by American forces whenever occupation troops are attacked.
The New York-based Human Right Watch accused the American occupation forces of "excessive or indiscriminate use of force" against civilians in Baghdad as well as failing to conduct proper investigations in cases of civilian deaths in the Iraqi capital.
In a 56-page report released Monday, October 20, the group documented 20 cases of Iraq civilians deaths between May 1, when U.S. President George Bush declared an end to the major combat operations in Iraq, and September 30.
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