But they meant “peace and tranquility,” doncha know. “Islamic Clerics Call Kurdish Protestors to ‘Jihad’ Against Their Leaders,” by Wladimir Van Wilgenburg in Rudaw, March 25:
The city of Sulaimani is known for its secular image in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, but now young religious clerics are taking a central role in the ongoing anti-government demonstrations there by leading the protest’s Friday prayer sessions and speaking out against governmental corruption.
“We are especially inspired by the events in the Middle East and Egypt,” said Mullah Mohammed Nasrullah, one of the first clerics to lead the public prayers that have become a focal point of the Sulaimani protests.
Inspired by the revolution in Egypt, protestors have, since February 17th, continuously demonstrated against the Kurdish Regional Government in Sulaimani’s central Bar Darki Sara Square, which they have renamed Maidani Azadi (“Liberation Square”) in tribute to Cairo’s Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square. In addition, as in the Egyptian protests, religious clerics are now playing a central role in the political debate.
Jihad against corruption
Nasrullah, an outspoken cleric, is playing an especially significant role in the anti-government demonstration by, for instance, calling it a “jihad” (“holy struggle”). Although protestors have generally been enthusiastic about this label, some fear this was a call for violence, which Nasrullah denies.
“I did not call for violence, but for demonstration and the solving of problems, for peace and tranquility,” the cleric said.
Nasrullah admits his actions have been inspired by theologian Sheikh Qaradawi, who led thousands of anti-government protesters in prayer in Egypt.
“In Egypt — a big Islamic country — we saw thousands of people come onto the streets to pray with imams,” said Nasrullah. “We want to support our people, who came out in support of the demonstrations. Our country needs us in these difficult times.”
Nasrullah, who studies religion in Baghdad, says the events in Maidani Azadi are something new for the whole of Iraq.
“It never happened before that people prayed on the streets, but everything that’s new also results in problems,” he said, referring to the threatening and temporary detention of some of the clerics who supported the protests.
Clerics are part of society
Demonstrators interviewed by Rudaw in the square welcomed the new role of religious clerics in the protests.
“We feel supported by them,” said Nian Farez Mohammed. “They have the right to express their opinions.”
Osman Ali Achmed, the uncle of 16-year-old Rezwan Ali, who was killed by security forces in the protests, agrees the clerics have a right to participate.
“They are a part of the society,” said Achmed. “If the people have problems, everybody participates, and so do the imams. Mullahs have the right to participate in protests.”…