July 1, 2011 was Firm Roots Friday for protesters in Iraq’s Tahrir Square, Baghdad. Reports said tens to hundreds attended the event. Unlike previous weeks, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not organize a counter-march in the square to shut out his critics. A variety of concerns were aired, which has been the norm. People could be heard calling for political reforms, an end to sectarianism, and national reconciliation. Some were calling for the death sentence for a man who has been held for three years to be reversed. His supporters claimed his sentence was politically motivated. Others called for the end of the U.S. occupation, and an American flag was burned. One of the main chants was against Maliki, calling for him to resign and condemning his repressive tactics. On June 10 for example, a pro-government crowd attacked demonstrators, and drove them from the square. Human Rights Watch noted that plainclothes policemen were part of the mob, and some beat protesters, while the security forces that were wringing Tahrir looked on. There was also a group of contract workers for the National Election Commission who called for full time work.
This was a largely peaceful assembly that lacked the drama of the last couple weeks because Maliki chose not to interfere. On the other hand, the numbers of participants was still low, and there was only one other event reported on the rest of the country, a demonstration in Dhi Qar by tribal sheikhs demanding better services. As mentioned before, Iraq’s protest movement is sputtering and splintering, while still coming under government pressure. Activists are under threat of becoming politically irrelevant unless they are able to get new momentum, and bring out larger crowds in more cities. Otherwise, the Prime Minister will have won through his repressive tactics.
Video from July 1, 2011 Protest In Tahrir Square, Baghdad
Alsumaria, “Baghdad residents protest against Iraqi Government,” 7/1/11
Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Attacks by Government-Backed Thugs Chill Protests,” 6/30/11
National Iraqi News Agency, “Demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Baghdad renew demands for political reforms, and burn American flag,” 7/1/11
Al Sharqiya Television, "Tribal elders in Dhi Qar: the deterioration of services and lack of the most basic requirements of the Simple Life," 7/2/11