For years after the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had an outsized influence on the country’s politics: he was able to mobilize the Shi’ite masses in a way few other Iraqi leaders could match, his followers created one of the most powerful militias during Iraq’s civil war, and he played kingmaker in the selection of prime ministers. But after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in late 2011, Sadr went into a self-imposed seclusion from politics, even as his supporters continued to run for parliament and to control several key ministries. Sadr was waiting on the sidelines for his opportunity to play the savior of Iraq’s Shi’ites.
Amnesty International said on Tuesday Iraq is holding more than 1,000 detainees, some as young as 15, without charge in "inhumane and degrading conditions" at makeshift holding centers in western Anbar province. The London-based human rights watchdog said 683 men have been crammed into disused warehouses in Amiriyat al-Falluja, just west of Baghdad, which counter-terrorism forces (CTF) have turned into a detention and interrogation facility. "The detainees are squeezed into a space of less than one square meter each, sitting in a crouching position day and night, unable to stretch or lie down to sleep and are rarely allowed outside for fresh air," the organization's secretary general Salil Shetty said following an April 30 visit.