|Tear gas being fired at protesters in Baghdad's Tahrir Sq (Baghdad Post)|
The much anticipated national protests returned to Iraq after the Arbaeen pilgrimage. There were demonstrations in Baghdad and all the south for a total of ten provinces. Things quickly escalated with the security forces and security guards firing into crowds, political and government offices being sacked and burned, and political and tribal rivalries going on in some areas.
According to Agence France Presse and the Iraq Human Rights Commission 42 people died on the October 25. That included 12 in Diwaniya, 9 in Maysan, 9 in Dhi Qar, 8 in Baghdad, 3 in Basra and 1 in Muthanna. Another 2,312 were wounded with 1,493 in Baghdad, 301 in Basra, 151 in Muthanna, 112 in Qadisiya, 105 in Maysan, 90 in Dhi Qar, 50 in Karbala, and 10 in Wasit. Officially, 149 civilians died in the first round of protests that lasted from October 1-9. Nearly a third of that figure lost their lives in just one day, which does not bode well for the future. The more that are killed, the angrier and the more determined the crowds become. At the start of October, the shooting of protesters quickly radicalized them from asking for the traditional reforms to demanding the entire political class be kicked out. The government’s response is creating its own demise.
Speaking of which, Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi and Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani both tried and failed at wooing the masses. The premier made an address saying that Iraq’s political system was facing a crisis. He promised more meaningless reforms such as changing his cabinet, and cutting salaries for top officials. Sistani’s representative used his Friday sermon to say that real change would only come from peaceful means and called for calm. Both represented the dilemma of the establishment. Nothing they said would appease the protesters. The youth are tired of hearing officials talk about how they are going to tackle the country’s problems, but simply maintain the status quo. The frustration with the elite is the reason why there are so many out in the streets.
Najaf and Karbala were the only provinces where things went relatively peaceful. People gathered at the government buildings in both governorates and set up tents for sit ins. Why these two were different from the rest of the country is unknown. Perhaps the presence of the religious establishment and shrines were a factor.
The rest of the areas were far more chaotic. As usual, Tahrir Square was the center of protests in Baghdad. People tried to march on the Green Zone, and pulled down blast walls the Iraqi forces (ISF) erected to stop them. The ISF quickly started using water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas to break up the crowd. People blamed Saraya al-Khorasani and Sayid al-Shuhada for shooting at people, although there were disputed reports about whether live ammo was used or not. Moqtada al-Sadr sent his Saraya al-Salam Hashd in to protect the crowds despite organizers rejected his participation. Eventually tear gas cannisters were fired straight at people and resulted in at least five deaths. At the start of the month, the ISF immediately shot at demonstrators. This time it was much worse. The authorities claimed they would act with restraint, but the situation quickly escalated. It’s obvious that the security forces have been told to use violence to put down these gatherings because they represent an existential threat to the state. The ISF are not backing down either. The Joint Operations Command announced that the demonstrators are being exploited by saboteurs who were destroying property. It said it would deal with them. Claiming outside influences has consistently been used to discredit the protests and justify their suppression.
In the capital, and the south dozens of buildings were sacked and burned. Government offices in Baghdad, Basra, Nasiriya, Diwaniya, Samawah, Qadisiya, and Kut were all invaded and destroyed. Various politicians, political parties and Hashd homes and offices suffered similar fates. In Babil, the Reform Movement, State of Law, the Supreme Council, and three politicians were targeted. In Nasiriya it was Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH), Badr, Sayid al-Shuhada, Dawa, and the Imam Ali Brigades. In Amarah, Badr, Dawa, and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq had their offices burned. AAH guards fired at the crowds killing at least two and wounding 30. In Samawah, Dawa, Fadhila, Fatah, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Hikma, Badr, Saraya al-Khorasani, Islah, the Supreme Council, Sayid al-Shuhada, and others were all assaulted. In Qadisiiya it was Dawa, Badr, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Saraya al-Khorasani, and Sayid al-Shuhada. There was an added tragedy as 10 people died inside the Badr building. Finally, in Kut, the Atta movement of National Security Adviser Falah Fayad, Dawa, and an MP’s office were set ablaze. These are some of the main political parties and pro-Iran Hashd groups. Attacking them represents the anger people feel towards these groups for generally failing to fulfill their promises, their poor rule over the years, and their connections to Tehran. The number of offices sacked was staggering, and again showed how people wanted the ruling elite and various armed groups out.
Maysan showed how political rivalries are also coming out. The Asaib Ahl Al-Haq offices were stormed and burned in Amara. Beforehand the guards shot at people. An AAH commander was wounded, and he and his brother later died. There was one report that he was killed when he arrived at a hospital. This confrontation was either due to tribal or political disputes. Maysan has historically been a Sadrist stronghold. When the movement fractured during the civil war and afterward however, other groups have been able to move in. AAH after all was a Sadrist breakaway group. What happened at its building was said to either be due to a tribe wanting revenge upon AAH or the Sadrists taking on a competitor. This could quickly explode into armed struggle between these factions.
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Agence France Presse, “Renewed anti-government protests in Iraq leave 42 dead,” 10/25/19
AIN, “13 offices belonging to parties and MPs were burned in Muthanna,” 10/25/19
- “Burning the gate of Basra governorate building,” 10/25/19
- “Demonstrators burn the headquarters of the Dawa Party and offices and the latter suspends and accuses the parties,” 10/25/19
Al Alam, “The burning of the Agricultural Bank building near the local government building in Karbala,” 10/25/19
Alkhshali, Hamdi, Garcia, Jaide, and Lewis, Aimee, “Chaos in Baghdad as protesters try to storm Green Zone,” CNN, 10/25/19
Baghdad Post, “Diwaniya protesters expel Governor Zuhair Shaalan,” 10/25/19
BBC, “Iraq protests: 21 dead as mass unrest descends into violence,” 10/25/19
Al Forat, “Urgent Burning Dhi Qar Provincial Council Building,” 10/25/19
Al Hurra, “Iraq bleeds and footage documenting crimes .. Who permits innocent blood to be spilled?” 10/25/19
- “Photos .. Burning the headquarters of militias and political parties in southern Iraq,” 10/25/19
IraqiRevolution, “Armed clashes in #Maysan province between southern tribes and
IRGC-backed Asaeb Ahlul Haq (AAH). Escalations began after a protester was fatally
shot by the militia,” 10/25/19
Al Masalah, “Demonstrations in their moment: Clashes between demonstrators Maysan
and Asaib .. And reports of dozens of victims,” 10/25/19
- “In pictures .. Demonstrators burn the headquarters of Hikma and Asaib in
- “Paper monitors fires .. Demonstrators focus on party and parliamentary symbols,” 10/25/19
Al Mirbad, “Asaib Mirbad: Gunmen followed (Wissam Al-Alawi) affected by his wounds and killed him in ambulance upon arrival at the hospital,” 10/25/19
- “Badr Organization building completely burned in Maysan,” 10/25/19
- “The burning of a former office of the Virtue Party in Al-Orouba district in Diwaniya,” 10/25/19
- “Burning the headquarters of the Dawa party in Diwaniya,” 10/25/19
- “Despite the curfew .. peaceful sit-in for demonstrators in Safwan in front of the gate of the port,” 10/25/19
- “Dozens of residents of Hamza district in Diwaniya start an open sit-in,” 10/25/19
- “Security source: 10 protesters die after being surrounded by fire inside Badr Organization building in Diwaniya,” 10/25/19
Nabil, Steven, “Asaib Ahul Alhaq was firing into the crowds for a while, all on camera by protesters,” 10/25/19
- “Kataib Hezbolla office in Nasriyah was torched down,” 10/25/19
Nas News, “Joint Operations command threaten “saboteurs”: We will deal with these criminals in accordance with the terrorism law,” 10/25/19
- “List of headquarters of the factions burned in Dhi Qar: 5 offices belonging to 4 forces,” 10/25/19
NINA, “Angry Protesters Burn The House Of The Head Of The Parliamentary Finance Committee In Babylon,” 10/25/19
- “Demonstrators Burn The House Of The Head Of Babylon Council,” 10/25/19
- “Demonstrators Enter The Wasit Governorate Building,” 10/25/19
- “Demonstrators Of Tahrir Square Begin A Sit-In And Erect Tents,” 10/25/19
- “Human Rights Commission: 30 Killed And 2312 Injured In Today’s Demonstrations,” 10/25/19
- “Hundreds of citizens gathered at the Education Square in Karbala in preparation for the start of a demonstration at the gates of the Council and the province,” 10/25/19
- “Najaf demonstrators head to the governorate and council buildings amid the protection of security forces,” 10/25/19
- “Najaf Demonstrators Set Up Tents To Sit In In Front Of The Governorate Building And Its Council,” 10/25/19
- “Protesters Burn The Electoral Commission Building In Samawah, Muthanna Province,” 10/25/19
NINA, “Thousands of demonstrators head to the Wasit Council, carrying Iraqi flags amid an intensive presence of unarmed security forces,” 10/25/19
Rubin, Alissa, “’All of Them Are Thieves’: Iraqis Defy Security Forces to Protest Corruption,” New York Times, 10/25/19
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Shafaaq News, “Iraqi demonstrators set fire in front of a border crossing with Kuwait,” 10/25/19
Sotaliraq, “The burning of the Diwaniya provincial council building and a gateway to Basra province and dispersing the demonstrators in Muthanna,” 10/25/19
- “Injured by targeting a building in Basra province with a bomb and burning party headquarters in Babil,” 10/25/19
- “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
- “The second Iraqi province becomes free of party headquarters after the killing of a demonstrator and the injury of others,” 10/25/19
Xinhua, “Protesters attack headquarters of provincial gov’t, political parties in Iraq: statement,” 10/25/19