Iraqis have complained about a government decision to introduce a second day off every week that coincides with the Jewish Sabbath, and some students went to class Saturday in protest.
Iraqis don’t oppose the extra time off; they just want the weekend to be Thursday and Friday instead of Friday and Saturday.
“We don’t want Saturday! It’s a Jewish holiday!” students chanted as they marched last week to the governor’s office in Baqubah.
A high school student pulled out a hand grenade and started waving it, and police fired into the air to disperse the crowd.
At Baghdad’s University of Mustansiriya, a student group believed to be allied with radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr called Saturday “the Zionist holiday” and said the government order should not be followed.
In the mostly Sunni Muslim city of Samarra, the Mutawakal High School opened its doors after insurgents threatened to kill teachers if they took the day 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 Fazilah secondary girls’ school, all 400 students 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.
The students pledged to stage sit-ins until the government made Thursday the first day of a two-day weekend.
In Ramadi, a town in the so-called Sunni Triangle, the head of Anbar University decided to change the school’s weekend to Thursday and Friday.
There is no clear-cut rule for weekends in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. In Lebanon, the weekend starts at 11:30 a.m. Friday and includes Sunday. In Jordan, it is Friday and Saturday. Bahrain, Egypt and Kuwait have Thursday and Friday off, whereas Iran and Saudi Arabia give only Friday off.