Some Iraqis protest having Saturday off.
Many associate it with Jewish Sabbath
The Associated Press
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 of Baghdad.
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 Samarra, 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 a.m. Friday and includes
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 Mahmoud, 18.
Sit ins threatened
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
"We will keep going to school with determination and persistence" on
Saturday, sixth-grader Nassen Dawoud said.
"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
"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
In Ramadi, the heart of the insurgency in the so-called Sunni
Triangle, the head of Anbar University decided to change the weekend
on its own.
"The official weekend is Thursday and Friday," the university
© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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