Thursday, February 6, 2020

Sadr Tries To Impose His Will On Iraq’s Protests

Sadrists at the protest sites are called the "Blue Hats" (Al Ghad Press)


Since Moqtada al-Sadr told his followers to return to the sit-in squares on January 31 there has been nothing but conflict. It appears that Sadr wants to impose his will upon the demonstrators through force and intimidation.

The start of February has been marked by increasing attacks by the Sadrists against demonstrators across Iraq. Things began in Baghdad on February 1. On that day Sadr’s followers suppressed a rally in Tahrir Square rejecting Mohammed Allawi being named interim premier. Then the Sadrists gave people 48 hours to evacuate the Turkish Restaurant, but then attacked people and forced them all out of the building. The next day things escalated. First, Sadr issued a statement calling for the arrest of people blocking roads and said the Education Ministry should punish students and teachers who were on strike. One of his spokesman added that the Sadrists would impose peace upon the protests and work with the security forces. More ominously he said that saboteurs needed to be expelled from the movement. That kind of rhetoric has been used to justify the suppression of demonstrators. Sadr’s followers then tried to clear a bridge in coordination with the security forces next to Tahrir Square that had been occupied for months, but failed. In Basra and Nasiriya, they went after people opposing Allawi and they attempted to take control of the sit-in site in Karbala. On February 3 things turned deadly. Sadrists escalated things in Najaf by shooting at a crowd and wounding 14. Afterward the provincial governor negotiated a deal to have Sadr’s men leave the streets in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Things were worse in Babil’s Hilla where Sadrists again shot at protesters and stabbed a man to death. These action point towards Sadr wanting to take over the protest movement. Before, the Sadrists went to the protest squares to add their support and protection in another attempt to co-opt the movement like Sadr did last year. Now, after a deal for Iran’s backing fell apart, Sadr is back at the demonstrations but attacking them more and more. He either wants to take them over through force this time, or put an end to them since they will be a big challenge to the new premier which Sadr supports.

SOURCES

Al Arabiya, “Iraqi protester stabbed to death in clash between rival camps,” 2/3/20

Al Ghad Press, “Groups of the Sadrist movement suppress a rally rejecting Mohammed Allawi’s assignment in Tahrir Square,” 2/1/20

Ghafuri, Lawk, “Sadr calls for protest arrests after new prime minister appointed,” Rudaw, 2/2/20

Al Hurra, “Armed, but with blue caps .. Facts about peaceful Sadr militia,” 2/3/20
- “Coinciding with Allawi’s announcement .. Sadr supporters control the Turkish restaurant,” 2/1/20
- “Video from Iraq .. Protesters drive out blue hats from Al-Haboubi Square, Nasiriyah,” 2/2/20

Al Masalah, “The governor of Najaf reveals an agreement to withdraw blue hats from the streets,” 2/3/20

NINA, “4 Protesters Injured As A Result Of A Clash With The Blue Has Wearers In Hilla,” 2/3/20
- “14 Demonstrators Injured In Najaf, As A Result Of Clashes With Blue Caps Wearers,” 2/3/20
- “Blue Caps Try To Open Al-Jumhuriya Bridge In Cooperation With the Security Forces,” 2/2/20
- “Clashes Erupt Between Demonstrators And The (Blue- Hats Wearers) In Basra Sit-in Square,” 2/2/20
- “Followers Of The Sadrist Movement Flock To Tahrir Square Again,” 1/31/20
- “Sadr’s Spokesman In Social Media Calls Take The Initiative By His Followers To Impose Peace In Sit-ins And Demonstrations Squares,” 2/2/20

Al Sumaria, “Blue hats trying to control of Falakat al-Ahrar in Karbala,” 2/2/20
- “The return of the demonstrators’ control of Al-Jumhuriya Bridge in Baghdad,” 2/2/20


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