Iraqi students protest
day off on Jewish Sabbath
By The Associated press
As published on Haaretz I nternational
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis are complaining about their first-ever
weekend break, and some high-school students even went
to class Saturday to protest a decision introducing a
second weekly day off that coincides with the Jewish Sabbath.
It's not that the Iraqis do not want time off - they
just want the extra day moved to Thursday.
''We don't want Saturday! It's a Jewish holiday!"
students chanted as they marched in protest last week
to the governor's office in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast
A high-school student pulled out a hand grenade and started
waving it, and police fired into the air to disperse the
crowd. At least three students reportedly were injured
in the ensuing scuffle.
At Baghdad's University of Mustansariyah, a statement
issued by a student union believed to be allied with the
radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-sadr described Saturday
as ''the Zionist holiday'' and said the government order
should not be followed.
''We declare a general strike in the University of Mustansariyah
to reject this decision and any decision aimed at depriving
Iraqis of their identity" the statement said.
In predominantly Sunni Muslim Ramada, 60 miles north
of Baghdad, the al-Mutawakal high school opened its doors
after insurgents threatened to kill its teachers if they
took the day off.
There is no clear-cut rule for weekends in the Middle
East and other Muslim countries in the region.
In Lebanon the weekend starts at 11:30 am. Friday and
In Jordan, the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Bahrain,
Egypt and Kuwait have Thursday and Friday off, while conservative
Iran and Saudi Arabia only give Friday off.
In many Baghdad districts, including Shiite- dominated
Sadr City, students and civil servants ignored the decree
and went to school and work. At Sadr City's al-Fazilah
secondary girls school, all 400 girls showed up for class.
''Sadr City is a Shiite Islamic city and we reject Saturday
being our holiday because it is related to the Jewish
weekend," said student union leader Safaa Dawoud
The student body delivered a letter to the school's administrators
demanding that Thursday and Friday be the official weekend
''because both days were blessed in Islam and by sharia,"
or Islamic law.
The students, dressed in long skirts with their hair
covered by dense black veils, vowed to stage sit-ins until
the government reverses its decision and makes Thursday
the first day of a two-day weekend.
''We will keep going to school with determination and
persistence'' on Saturday, sixth-grader Nassen Dawoud
''We can't be like Jews. Saturday is a Jewish holiday
and I hope the government listens to us" sixth- grader
Nada Alwan, said.
The influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars,
believed to be close to the insurgency, said that by making
Saturday a weekend ''the invaders, the occupiers are trying
to impose their principles'' on Iraq.
''This decision is dangerous" it said.
In Samarra, one teacher said on condition of anonymity
that he had received death threats from militants warning
him not to take Saturdays off.
In Ramadi, the heart of the insurgency in the so- called
Sunni Triangle, the head of Anbar University decided to
range the weekend on its own.
''The official weekend is Thursday and Friday" the