Tens of thousands of Sadrists hold south Iraq protest
Basra, Iraq - Tens of thousands of loyalists of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rallied in south Iraq Monday decrying poor services and rampant graft on the ninth anniversary of the US-led invasion against Saddam Hussein.
Protesters flooded the centre of the southern port city of Basra for the rally, with demonstrators waving Iraqi flags and portraits of the anti-US Shiite cleric and his father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, killed in 1999 by assailants thought to have been sent by Saddam.
Reading remarks composed by Sadr, currently in Iran, Sheikh Assad al-Nassari told the crowd: "We cannot rest when there is injustice against us."
"Demand your rights, I will support you, and with our unity we will be strong. You must fight for a stable nation."
Demonstrators, many of whom came from different provinces to take part in what was dubbed the "Day to Support Oppressed Iraqis", shouted: "Yes to rights! Yes to humanity! No to injustice! No to poverty! No to corruption!"
Some protesters held aloft electrical cables, water canisters and shovels to symbolise the poor services that plague Iraq, nine years after a US-led coalition invaded the country to overthrow Saddam.
Others carried empty coffins with words plastered on them such as "democracy", "electricity", "education" and "services".
Despite increasing oil production, Iraq suffers from sporadic electricity, with power cuts multiplying during the boiling summer, poor clean water provision, widespread corruption and high unemployment.