Friday, February 25, 2011
Iraqi Government Tries To Deter Participation In “Day Of Rage” Protest
February 25, 2011 will be the “Day of Rage” protest in Iraq. Organizers have been using the internet to try to organize one million people to march through the streets of Baghdad to show their disgust with government, which has not been able to address the lack of basic services, high unemployment and underemployment, fight corruption, or to generally manage the country. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has decided to come out against this demonstration, and has used various tactics to try to deter people from participating.
In just the last few days, government officials have issued warnings about the planned event, and tried to block coverage of it. On February 24, Maliki said that people should not attend the march. He claimed that Baathists and Al Qaeda were going to manipulate it for their own ends. That same day, the Minister of National Reconciliation repeated that message about Baathists to a meeting of tribal sheikhs, urging them to tell their tribesmen to not go to the capital. A few days before, the Baghdad Operations Command claimed that it had intelligence that terrorists were going to target the march. As a result, the military banned all vehicles from central Baghdad on February 25, including those used by the media. The Communications and Media Commission is appealing to the Operations Command to allow television trucks to cover the demonstration live. All of these statements are a dramatic turn around for the government. Last week, the premier told his ministers and the governors that they had to listen to the on-going demonstrations, that the right to assemble was protected under the constitution, and that since there were recent elections the government didn’t have to worry about any real repercussions.
Prime Minister Maliki has definitely changed his opinion about the country’s protests. He has gone from a supporter, to trying to discourage what might be the largest march to date. Protesters have increasingly gone from complaining about how badly their city or province is run, to calling for their local politicians to resign for mismanagement. Those demands could quickly turn to the new parliament, ministers, and Maliki himself, which would explain the premier’s change of face. There have also been clashes with security forces, and deaths in Kut, Wasit and Sulaymaniya in Kurdistan. Then again, not as many people may participate in the “Day of Rage” after both Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Moqtada al-Sadr encouraged their followers to not participate. Whatever happens, Iraq is going through a sensitive time as a complete government has still not be named because of political rivalries amongst the largest parties, economic development, job creation, and delivery of services are still lagging far behind demand, and more and more people are taking to the streets as a result.
Ahmed, Hamid, “Iraqi PM to country: Stay away from Friday demo,” Associated Press, 2/24/11
Alsumaria, “Iraq government tenses up tone against pretests,” 2/24/11
Arraf, Jane, “Iraq attempts to defuse huge protest planned for Friday,” Christian Science Monitor, 2/23/11
Brosk, Raman, “Iraqi Media Commission challenges ban on live coverage of Friday protest,” AK News, 2/24/11
Al-Haffar, Hasson, “Sadrist Current threaten to withdraw from parliament over Kut protest clashes,” AK News, 2/19/11
Al-Rafidayn, “Al-Maliki Calls on Ministers and Provincial Governors to be Attentive to Demonstrations,” MEMRI Blog, 2/16/11