Friday, October 11, 2019

Iraq Govt Repression Of Protests Being Exposed As More Promises Of Reform Being Made

(Al Mada)

There were several reports on October 10 about the abuses committed by the security forces during the protests. Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed 14 demonstrators and journalists in Baghdad and Dhi Qar who told stories of the police and Hashd beating and shooting people. In Baghdad, on October 3 one person said he heard the police warn a crowd that if they didn’t disperse they would be shot at. A Reuters reporter then saw a sniper fire into the gathering. A medic was arrested inside her ambulance trying to attend to the wounded. Two days later the Iraqi forces (ISF) fired tear gas at a convoy of ambulances in the capital. There was plenty of video posted on social media of protesters getting shot down in the streets. HRW also talked with Dijla and NRT TV. Dijla TV received a letter from the Media Commission ordering it to shut down for one month for covering the disturbances. The next day its offices were raided, which began with a stun grenade being thrown into the building, and the staff beaten. A senior executive at NRT told Human Rights Watch that government officials called telling them to stop reporting on the protests. It was assaulted the same day as Dijla along with three other satellite stations. In Nasiriya, crowds tried to burn the offices of the Badr organization and were shot at by riot police and Badr security guards. When people marched on the offices of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq in Shatra north of Nasiriya they were shot at by two men on the roof. When the riot police arrived they fired on the gathering as well. Al Mada had two reports on the same two provinces covered by HRW. In Baghdad lawyers and activists said that around 1,000 people were arrested during the unrest. The Bar Association and a human rights worker believed that half the prisoners were beaten and tortured by the ISF. In Dhi Qar, a massive arrest campaign was still on going to round up participants. Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi claimed that he gave strict orders not to shoot at crowds. The Interior Ministry said that it had nothing to do with the use of live ammunition on demonstrators. The government said it would launch an investigation into the violence. These were all attempts to avoid responsibility for what happened. These articles and investigations were just the latest to document the policy of repression. That was to use firepower as the first resort to break up gatherings, go after anyone helping demonstrators, carry out mass arrests which are still going on today, and shut down the media. The government has always used repression against protests, but this was the most violence it ever unleashed. Over 100 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The ISF showed no concern for human life, and the politicians said nothing until the protests were almost over.

Baghdad also reversed its strategy this year, offering the stick first, and then the carrot afterward. The prime minister went to parliament and nominated new Health, Education, Communications and Displacement Ministers who were voted on. The cabinet also authorized 10 million dinars to compensate the dead and wounded from the protests. Since 2011 there have been demonstrations calling for jobs, services, fighting corruption and better governance. With the insurgency largely down and out, people are focusing upon the ruling parties even more. Last year, frustration boiled over into riots in southern Iraq over the lack of any progress on these demands. This year’s responses are more of the same. Doling out more government welfare and putting in new ministers has nothing to do with what people are calling for. They want the administration to resign, and the elite to be forced out. That is obviously not going to happen, so people’s anger will not be satiated, and more activism and more state violence will be coming. That could restart after the Arbaeen pilgrimage is over on October 20.

SOURCES

Economist, “Iraq’s government seems powerless to halt protests in the Shia heartland,” 10/10/19

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Lethal Force Used Against Protesters,” 10/10/19

Al Hurra, “Shocking video..Masked snipers beat demonstrator south of Baghdad,” 10/10/19

Al Mada, “Around 1,000 protesters were arrested in the early days of the protest, more than half of them in Baghdad,” 10/10/19
- “Recordings of demonstrators document their targeting by riot police in Dhi Qar,” 10/10/19

Al Maslaah, “The Council of Ministers: 10 million dinars to the families of the martyrs of the demonstrations and to ensure the treatment of the wounded,” 10/10/19
- “Victory: Political forces imposed their candidates on the Prime Minister,” 10/10/19

NINA, “A parliamentary source announces the names of candidates for the Ministries in the reshuffle,” 10/10/19

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