Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Protest At Um Qasr Port Broken Up And Mass Arrests In Baghdad

Protesters stormed a marine base after sit in site at Um Qasr Port in Basra was broken up (Al Hurra)

The government’s crackdown continued as protesters found new avenues to carry out actions against the regime. That included breaking up the sit in in front of the Um Qasr port in Basra, and an arrest campaign in Baghdad. On the other hand, government offices were shut down and politicians had their homes burned. There appears no end in sight to the unrest as the political class refuses to carry out major changes.

The death count for protesters continued to climb. On November 4 eight people died. Five more were killed on November 5. That included one shot at a funeral and one at Al-Ahrar Bridge in Baghdad, two died of gunfire attacking a politician’s house in Shatrah in Dhi Qar during the night, and one more person lost their life when the government ended the sit-in at the Um Qasr Port in Basra. In anger, the crowd stormed a marine base next to the port to try to free people who had been detained. The marines opened fire on the crowd. Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi gave a speech claiming that saboteurs were responsible for these clashes. The demonstration at Um Qasr had nearly shut down the port and hurt the economy. The day before the Basra Operations Command announced it had gotten permission to clear the area of people. Outside of Baghdad, Shatrah has seen the most violent confrontations between the public and security forces. There have been constant attacks upon politicians’ houses that has led to gunfire by the police and guards. The premier’s talk about infiltrators justifies the repression.

At the end of November 4 the Internet was cut off in most of Iraq again. During the night and into the next morning the security forces carried out an arrest campaign in certain Baghdad neighborhoods. This has been going on in other provinces already, and has now come to the capital. Several activists were already disappeared by unknown parties.

The United Nations issued a report documenting some of the government violence. From October 25-27 crowds tried to burn down party offices, government buildings and a politician’s house in Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Babil. Hashd elements, including Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, fired into the protesters killing 27 and wounding 287. Additionally, from October 26-29 police shot at protesters in Dhi Qar and Karbala leading to an additional 21 deaths and 170 injured. On November 4 the security forces used tear gas and live ammunition on people trying to cross the Al-Ahrar Bridge in Baghdad that cost the lives of five people. The security forces have also used the anti-terror law against arrested demonstrators in Babil, Baghdad, Dhi Qar, and Qadisiya, which is an abuse of the legislation. The government has been using these tactics since the start of protests in October. A huge amount of force was used initially, but then when the demonstrations restarted there was some restraint. That is beginning to fade as the protests drag on. It’s been reported that the prime minister wants to unleash more violence, but members of the security forces have pushed back.

Protesters continued with acts of civil disobedience despite the authorities. In Dhi Qar’s Shatrah, the houses of a councilman and three parliamentarians were burned, while government offices in Nasiriya were closed for a second day. The government building in Karbala was stormed by demonstrators, and the road to an oil field in Qadisiya was blocked. Sit ins are ongoing in the capitals of all the southern provinces and Baghdad as well. Crowds in Shahtrah have consistently attacked symbols of the elite, and been met by gunfire. The protest movement is also branching out into new avenues such as targeting oil fields. The movement has vastly expanded from its initial audience of young men to women to students to professional groups. It got a boost when Ayatollah Sistani said he stood with the people’s demands. The political elite however are not budging, which means the demonstrations may have to escalate things to win this battle of wills.

Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi seems to be more set to stay in power than before. He gave a speech where he said that if he were to resign there would be a power vacuum. He went on to say that the protests had pushed through a number of reforms, and that the constitution would be amended. Arab News reported that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander General Suleimani presented a political program to Iraq’s ruling parties that included changing the cabinet, amending the election law and changing members of the Election Commission, but not holding an early vote, and keeping Abdul Mahdi in office. When the protests restarted President Barham Salah stated that the prime minister was willing to step down. Iran immediately intervened, and now the rhetoric seems to be about how to save his job. Abdul Mahdi’s comment about chaos for example, ignores the fact that if he were to resign President Salah would take over the government. The reforms are also meaningless. Thinking that the government can reform the constitution in any substantive way for example, is a pipedream. The strategy appears to be to try to outlast the demonstrations.

SOURCES

Baghdad Post, “Activists arrested after new areas joined the demonstrations in Baghdad,” 11/5/19
- “Demonstrators close an oil refinery in Diwaniyah province,” 11/5/19

Bas News, “Iraqi Protesters Raid Military Unit in Umm Qasr Port,” 11/5/19

Al Forat, “Abdul-Mahdi denies firing on demonstrators and warns of power vacuum,” 11/5/19
- “The start of a demonstration in Sadiya and fast sessions,” 11/5/19

Human Rights Office, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), “Demonstrations in Iraq: update,” 10/25-11/4/19

Al Hurra, “Abdul Mahdi: Some vandals dressed in military uniforms to push security to clash with protesters,” 11/5/19

Al Jazeera, “Deadly violence continues as Iraq protests escalate,” 11/5/19

Nas News, “Masked men and government vehicles .. A campaign of night arrests of dozens of demonstrators in central Baghdad,” 11/5/19

Nasiriya TV, “Burning the house of Dhi Qar Council member Rajah Matroud in Shatrah,” 11/5/19
- “Burning the house of the member of parliament Mona al-Ghorabi in Shatrah,” 11/5/19
- “The burning of the house of a member of parliament Zainab al-Khazraji in Shatrah,” 11/5/19
- “Burning the house of MP Naji al-Saidi in Shatrah,” 11/5/19
- “The death toll in the protests in Shatrah overnight rose to two martyrs and 13 wounded,” 11/5/19

NINA, “The Constitutional Amendments Committee Holds Its First Meeting In Parliament,” 11/5/19
- “Security Force Breaks Up Protesters Sit- In In Front Of Umm Qasr Port,” 11/5/19

Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Iran-backed Iraq leaders agree on ‘road map,’” Arab News, 11/5/19

Shafaaq News, “One dead near al-Ahrar bridge and protesters block a street in Baghdad,” 11/5/19

Sotaliraq, “The killing of the director of the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq office and his brother in Maysan and the high death toll in the governorate,” 10/25/19

Al Sumaria, “Protesters block road to Jadriya in Baghdad,” 11/5/19

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