The Iraqi media reported two protests on June 17, and there were two others. One was in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar where three activists were arrested. The security forces claimed that no permit was given for the march. 20 other demonstrators were being forced into vans when their compatriots came to their rescue. The three detainees were later freed after they signed a pledge not to participate in another unlicensed event. Another protest was held in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. Like last week, the police were out in full force, sealing off all the roads around the square and the bridge to the Green Zone. In both instances, people demanded reforms, national reconciliation, jobs, to fight corruption, and attacked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook group claimed that people also took to the streets in Fallujah, Anbar and Tal Afar, Ninewa. Friday’s turnout was down from the previous week when there were events in nine different cities.
Both of these events were overshadowed by a pro-government rally orchestrated by the premier. On June 16, Al Mada reported that Maliki was planning another protest in Tahrir Square the following day. On June 10, the prime minister’s Dawa Party brought out several thousand to Baghdad to counter the regular activists who had been occupying the square every Friday. That led to a violent clash as the people for the government attacked the protesters. According to Al Mada, Maliki wanted to force the anti-government crowd out of the square again, and planned on launching a media campaign to promote his counter demonstration.
Maliki’s plot went according to plan. A much larger group of people showed up at Tahrir Square on June 17, and gained most of the press coverage within Iraq. The pro-government crowd chanted their support for a recent court ruling that 15 insurgents behind a 2006 wedding massacre received the death penalty. They also praised the security forces and their fight against terrorism. Some had posters of Iyad Allawi and the leader of the wedding massacre pictured together, something which was seen the week before. A similar event went off in Karbala as well. The day before, Maliki issued a statement saying that there should not be two demonstrations in one place because it was prohibited by law and was unsafe. This carefully orchestrated campaign succeeded in overshadowing the anti-government protests.
Maliki was caught by surprise when protests started in Iraq in January, but since then he has used promises of reforms and the security forces to break them up. His latest tactic is to force the protesters out of Tahrir Square by organizing counter demonstrations, and to steal the headlines in the press as well. That all seemed to transpire on June 17, as a much larger pro-government crowd showed up in Baghdad, and got the majority of the Iraqi media’s attention. Gatherings in the country have been relatively small so far, and the prime minister has been successful in countering them. The summer looks to be another hot one, which could give new impetus to the protest movement, and present new challenges to the prime minister who lacks the will and means to meet their demands.
Images From Friday, June 17, 2011 Protests
Anti-Government protesters chanting against Maliki in Baghdad's Tahrir Square
Anti-Governement crowd in Tahrir Square
Women holding pictures of missing relatives
Pro-Government crowd in Baghdad
Ali, David, “Pictures a second demonstration pro-Maliki,” Al Mada, 6/16/11
Aswat al-Iraq, “2 demonstrations in Tahreer square,” 6/17/11
- “3 demonstrators arrested in Thi Qar,” 6/17/11
Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook Page
National Iraqi News Agency, “Hundreds of demonstrators in Tahrir Square, demanding the execution of convicted of wedding Dujail crime others calling for political reform,” 6/17/11
- “In Karbala, demonstrators demanding the execution of the perpetrators of the crime of Dujail Wedding,” 6/17/11
Radio Nawa, “Maliki calls on the parties not to demonstrate in one place,” 6/17/11
Sotaliraq, "Dozens protest in Tahrir Square in support of the decision of the death penalty against those convicted of Dujail incident Wedding," 6/17/11