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"We'll be Like the Palestinians!": Sunnis Protest Baghdad's "Prison Wall"
Residents of a Sunni enclave of Baghdad demonstrated and shouted slogans yesterday against a newly built wall sealing off their neighborhood from the rest of the city.
About 2,000 people marched through al-Adhamiyah in east Baghdad carrying banners saying that their district was being turned into "a big prison".
There was confusion as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said that the building of the wall must stop while the spokesman for the US-led security crackdown asserted that "construction of security barriers across Baghdad will continue without exception".
Inside al-Adhamiyah, the three-mile long wall under construction around the area was being compared with the walls built by Israel to surround and control Palestinian towns and villages on the West Bank.
"Adhamiyah will be isolated from all other areas," said one man in a cafe in the district. "We'll be like the Palestinians and we will not accept that."
The US military in Baghdad says it is constructing the 12ft high walls to create so-called "gated communities" in five different districts in Baghdad to protect them from sectarian attack.
But the Sunni see the walls as being primarily directed against insurgents, just as the French army walled off the Casbah in Algiers during the Algerian war in the 1950s and early 1960s to prevent anti-French fighters moving through the city. Sunnis in Baghdad are worried that the soldiers or police at the entrances to sealed off districts will be Shia soldiers and police who may detain anybody.
In many cases in the past, young men of military age have been routinely detained, tortured and their bodies found later. In al-Khadra district in west Baghdad one resident told The Independent: "My area is blocked off completely by heaps of dirt and rubbish and there is only one way in and out for vehicles. This is controlled by the security forces but nobody knows who they really are."