Friday, October 5, 2007

Iraqi Shias rain on Mahmoud's Palestinian parade

If you're hearing a lot of noisy parties in your neighbourhood, and the local store's all out of 'Death to Israel' placards and quick-lighting American flags, you know it must by al-Quds day - Iran's annual day of protests in support of the Palestinian people.

The BBC reports that tens of thousands of Iranians marched in central Tehran, while the authorities claimed that "millions" took part in protests across the country.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad marked the occasion by proclaiming that Iran would work until "all of Palestine is liberated", and in a none-to-subtle reference to the means by which he intends to achieve said liberation, described Iran's nuclear programme as a "great victory" for the country.

Unfortunately, Shias over the border in Iraq are unlikely to be celebrating al-Quds day with quite as much enthusiasm as their neighbours and co-religionists to whom they supposedly look for leadership. As AFP reported in a story I posted on last week:

Thousands of Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been ill-treated, with many of them abducted, tortured and murdered by armed Shiite Muslim groups, Amnesty International said in a report published Monday.

The London-based human rights group issued an urgent appeal to the Shiite-led Iraqi government, US-led coalition and international community to take concrete steps to protect the Palestinians.

The report explained that Palestinians are being targeted because Shiites think they received preferential treatment under Saddam Hussein, who like most Palestinians was a Sunni, or because they're suspected of supporting Sunni insurgents.

The report added:

Estimated at 34,000 in May 2006 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Palestinians now number no more than 15,000 in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad but many in Mosul in the north and Basra in the south.

If I was the cynical type, I might conclude that al-Quds day isn't about the Palestinian people at all, but about a corrupt and brutal Iranian dictatorship whipping up hysteria over their perceived plight to divert attention from all-to-real repression at home.

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