Sunday, October 6, 2019

Govt Violence Reducing Number Of Protests In Iraq

(Shafaaq News)

The number of provinces taking part in demonstrations continues to shrink in the face of unrelenting violence by the government. It’s apparent that Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi is relying upon force to suppress the streets as he has done nothing even rhetorically besides glittering generalities to answer their demands.

Baghdad continued to have the largest and most violent demonstrations. The curfew in the city was lifted early in the morning, and things started off calmly, but people eventually gathered in the center of the city to march on Tahrir Square. The police immediately fired on the crowd killing 4. People regrouped but were met by more bullets leading to 3 more deaths. There were clashes in other neighborhoods such as Zafaraniya in the south where one person was killed. The police closed down all the major intersections leading to Sadr City in the east to try to block people from there travelling to downtown. That led to violent confrontations, and even a report by the end of the day that mortars were fired into the neighborhood leaving 20 casualties. There were also 2 killed in Shula in the north. Reports had a total of 55 people have lost their lives in the province so far, but that did not include the reported mortar attack. Yesterday there were reports of snipers firing into crowds across the city. Reuters reported that these were police in East Baghdad. By the end of the day the police had re-imposed the curfew. Like the rest of the country, there were fewer neighborhoods taking part in the demonstrations on October 5. The police are also not hesitating in using force as soon as they see people gathering. Snipers and mortars also show that the authorities are taking this tactic to a new level hoping that the mounting dead and wounding will deter people. It showed how vacuous the government is that it is not even attempting to offer any concessions to the people this year. It has turned to the boot almost right off the bat.

The police and possibly the Hashd have also begun targeting the media for covering the disturbances. Five TV stations had their offices ransacked during the day including NRT, Dijla, Al-Arabiya, Al-Hadath and Al-Ghad. Al-Hurra reported that the security forces were behind two of these raids. In all five instances, equipment was smashed and the staff were beaten. Last year, the government forces went after reporters arresting them, beating them, issuing arrest warrants, etc. As another sign that the authorities want to clamp down on things they have attacked the media more directly.

Overall on October 5 there were protests in five provinces, down from ten the first day of unrest in the country. In Basra, the police have used pre-emptive tactics arresting people as soon as they gather in the city. In Najaf, protesters signed a statement calling for Abdul Mahdi to resign. Nasiriya and Diwaniya in Dhi Qar and Qadisiya provinces respectively have mimicked the capital in their hostilities. The day started in Nasiriya with the Counter-Terror forces surrounding the government building where people have met each day. From there, the crowds moved onto the offices of Saraya Khorasani, Badr, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Dawa, the Communist Party, Fadhila, the Supreme Council, Hikma, and a former parliamentarian and burned them. Badr and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq guards used gunfire to try to turn people back killing one and wounding more.  Four reportedly died during the day along with one policeman according to the Human Rights Commission. The provincial health directorate said that 21 people had lost their lives since October 1. Like the other governorates people went to the council building in Diwaniya where the police shot at them leaving 6 dead. A bodyguard for a councilman was arrested for killing a protester the day before during the demonstrations. Finally, in Wasit, people tried to burn down the deputy governor’s house in Kut, and there was one more fatality. By the end of the day the Human Rights Commission said 94 had died since the start of the protests including 8 police. 

When the protests originally began on October 1 they occurred across every southern province. That is shrinking in the face of the all the lie fire, dead, and wounded. That showed that the government’s violent tactics were working somewhat. Still, places like Nasiriya and Diwaniya appear to be out of control once people gather. Basra on the other hand, appears to be relatively subdued with the security forces having learned their lessons from last year. It also shows that all the gunfire is unnecessary if the police had been more pro-active and arrested crowds before they could even march on places like Tahrir Square or the government buildings. This is a lesson being missed by Baghdad.

Officials continued to be ineffective in their responses. Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Halbusi yesterday invited activists to meet with him and go over their demands. That happened October 5, but then people in the streets said whoever met with the speaker did not represent them. Parliament was also supposed to have an emergency session, but there was no quorum due to the boycott of the Sairoon bloc led by Moqtada al-Sadr. The weakness of the Abdul Mahdi administration from the start was that he had no party behind him, but rather was elected due to a deal between two rival factions Sadr on one side, and Badr’s Haid Amiri on the other. Parliament would do nothing if it met as a result. The prime minister has been feckless during his entire time in office as well, and his weak speech saying he couldn’t do anything and that it was the people’s fault for getting killed just showed that he will do nothing substantive about the protests politically and rely upon the police instead in the hopes to put them down. This is a very dangerous move as it is pushing many people towards revolution and wanting the entire elite to be brushed aside.

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Security forces kill more than 80 in 5 days of Iraq protests,” Associated Press, 10/5/19

Davison, John, Rasheed, Ahmed, “Deadly clashes break out again in Iraq, 11 killed in capital,” Reuters, 10/5/19

Ebraheem, Mohammed, “Five more Iraqis killed as deadly protests continue in Dhi Qar,” Iraqi News, 10/5/19

Al Hurra, “For the fifth day..Continued deaths in demonstrations in Iraq,” 10/5/19
- “Protesters: The delegation that met the speaker of the Iraqi parliament does not represent us,” 10/5/19
- “Security forces raided two satellite channels in Baghdad,” 10/5/19

Iraq Newspaper, “6 Demonstrators Killed In Qadisiya Now And Explosions Rock Najaf,” 10/5/19

Al Jazeera, “Iraq protests: All the latest updates,” 10/5/19

Al Mirbad, “Dhi Qar Health to Al Mirbad: There are wounded near the headquarters of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq,” 10/5/19
- “Health Director of Dhi Qar to Al-Mirbad: 21 killed and 524 injured in the latest demonstrations,” 10/5/19
- “Our correspondent: anti-terrorism surround the government building in Dhi Qar,” 10/5/19b
- “Our correspondent in Dhi Qar: shooting from the Badr Organization guards,” 10/5/19
- “Wounded in front of Badr Organization headquarters in Dhi Qar,” 10/5/19

News of Iraq, “Urgent More than 20 killed and wounded in mortar shells in Sadr City, east of Baghdad,” 10/5/19

NRT, “Baghdad Offices Of NRT Arabic Attacked By Unknown Gunmen,” 10/5/19

Al-Rubaie, Azhar, “Cautious of the street, Iraqi Sunnis become online cadres for protests,” Middle East Eye, 10/5/19

Sky News Arabia, “Our correspondent: violent confrontations between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces in Sadr City,” 10/5/19
- “Our correspondent: Wounded by dozens of unidentified shells fired at Sadr City in Baghdad,” 10/5/19

Sotaliraq, “New developments in Baghdad and the killing of a demonstrator in Kut and Najaf activists sign the dismissal of Abdul Mahdi,” 10/5/19

Al Sumaria, “The arrest of two members of the security of a member of the Diwaniya Council after firing live bullets at the demonstrators,” 10/5/19

Yes Iraq, “The latest developments in Iraq until 4pm: news of the re-curfew and renewed demonstrations,” 10/5/19

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