Thursday, October 31, 2019

98 Dead In 6 Days Of Renewed Protests in Iraq

Tahrir Sq Baghdad (Al Ghad Press)


Protests continued in Baghdad and southern Iraq with more students and professionals joining in. Members of the oil industry have started coming out as well. Two more people died in the capital bringing the deaths to 98 since the unrest restarted on October 24. Sympathy actions continue in parts of northern Iraq, but under heavy pressure of the security forces. The political situation remains up in the air however.

The largest demonstrations continued in Baghdad where two more people died. People tried to cross the Al-Senaq Bridge heading towards the Iranian embassy and were stopped by the security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Two people were killed and another 175 wounded. That brought the total deaths to 100 since October 24 when protests re-started. That likely includes two members of the security forces so the civilian toll is 98. Earlier the United Nations representative to Iraq Jenin Hennes-Blachart made an appearance at Tahrir Square. She condemned the deaths during the protests, and especially the attack in Karbala. Students and professionals continued with their support with lawyers setting up a tent in the square, while students at the University of Technology were still on strike. Tahrir is part confrontation, part party. The section next to the bridge heading to the Green Zone is where the security forces fire tear gas and rubber bullets at people as there are usually daily attempts to get into the zone. The rest of the square however often looks like a giant party from videos posted on social media. Some of the adjoining areas are also full of people, especially since students came out.

Similar activities were happening in the south. There are sit-in camps in Babil, Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, Muthanna, and Qadisiya. In Basra city people chanted “No Muqtada No Hadi” in response to the statements back and forth between Moqtada al-Sadr and Badr-Fatah list head Hadi Amiri over whether they will remove Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi or not. The chants were a rejection of the political class who protesters blame for the problems that have beset the country for the last 14 years. There were also protests in Zubayr and Qurna in Basra, Nasiriya in Dhi Qar, Najaf City. People blocked the entrance to the Qum Qasr port in Basra for a second day cutting capacity there by 80%. In the Shatrah district of Dhi Qar things turned into a riot. Oil workers, medical staff, unions, doctors, court workers, and university students in Basra, teachers in Karbala, students and unions in Muthanna, municipal workers, engineers, lawyers, teachers, students, university students, and Water Ministry workers in Qadisiya, and university students in Wasit all took part. It was the inclusion of all these new groups which gave the demonstrations a huge boost. They added a huge amount of pressure upon the government because now schools and some government offices are closed. If the demonstrations spread to the oil fields and people go on strike there it could cripple the economy. This represents a completely new phase in the protests.

Solidarity actions are taking place in the north. In Kirkuk, artists and students from the University of Kirkuk held events. According to Al Mada, the security services have been arresting and intimidating people to stay away from organizing. The cousin of the Salahaddin governor for example was arrested for posting on social media that he supported Tahrir Square. Diyala’s governor also imposed a curfew supposedly to stop an Islamic State raid upon a prison, but actually because there were two days of protests in Baquba. Sunni areas are definitely under threat if they participate because they could be labeled insurgents or Baathists, which was what happened the last time there were major demonstrations during the Maliki government.

Finally, the back and forth over the future of Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi continues. Sadr called for Abdul Mahdi to resign and early elections. The premier rejected that and told Sadr that if he wanted a new government he should talk to Amiri since they created the administration. Amiri then responded that he would work with Sadr for the good of the country. October 30 however, a parliamentarian from Amiri’s Fatah said that parliament had to question the prime minister, and more talks and deals had to be made before anything changed. Sadr in turn, warned that Iraq could turn into the next Yemen or Syria if Abdul Mahdi didn’t step down. Iran also officially threw in its hat to maintain the status quo when supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the chief of staff to President Hassan Rouhani accused the protests of being part of a plot by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Tehran has been intimately involved in the suppression of the demonstrations. Sadr’s criticisms of Abdul Mahdi has also pushed him farther into the hands of Amiri who is a long-time ally of Iran. That would seem to give the prime minister the backing to stay in office, but Iraqi politics can be fickle. Right now things could go in any direction. More importantly, if Abdul Mahdi steps down and Sadr and Amiri create a new government, it will be unlikely to satisfy the street, which is sick of the elite overall and want much more than just a new leader.

SOURCES

Daily Star, “Khamenei urges Iraqis, Lebanese to seek demands within law,” 10/30/19

Al Forat, “Urgent: Two people killed and 175 wounded in Baghdad demonstrations today,” 10/30/19

Al Ghad Press, “A demonstration in solidarity with the demonstrators from the employees of oil companies in Basra,” 10/30/19
- “For the sixth consecutive day .. Babylon demonstrators and students continue their civil disobedience,” 10/30/19
- “In pictures .. Diwaniya Municipality employees are on strike and join the protests,” 10/30/19
- “In pictures .. School students in Samawa clean the celebrations after participating in the demonstrations,” 10/30/19
- “Lawyers turn their sit-in tent in Tahrir Square into a platform to educate protesters,” 10/30/19
- “Pictures .. Continued student strikes at the University of Technology in Baghdad in solidarity with the demonstrators,” 10/30/19
- “Pictures … students at the University of Kufa sit in front of the main gate of the university,” 10/30/19

Al Hurra, “Dead and wounded .. Security dispersed demonstrators who tried to reach the Iranian embassy in Baghdad,” 10/30/19
- “”No Muqtada nor Hadi” .. Iraqis respond to maneuver by Sadr and Amiri,” 10/30/19
- “UN official amongst the demonstrators in Iraq .. And take the means of rescue,” 10/30/19

Al Jazeera, “Basra port operations halted by protesters, Iraq officials say,” 10/30/19

Al Mada, “Harsh harassment in liberated governorates to isolate them from central and southern protests,” 10/30/19

Al Mirbad, “The Basra sit-in continues amid a festive atmosphere,” 10/30/19
- “Basra unions declare their solidarity with the protesters,” 10/30/19
- “Basra white cadres .. Basra medical staff participate in the demonstration,” 10/30/19
- “Clerics participate in the sit-in Haboubi Square in Nasiriya,” 10/30/19
- “Demonstration of employees of the Federal Court of Appeal in Basra in solidarity with the protests,” 10/30/19
- “A demonstration for students of the evening section at the College of Education in Qurna,” 10/30/19
- “The Diwaniya Bar Association takes part in a sit-in to support popular protests,” 10/30/19
- “Dozens of Diwaniya education staff participate in a sit-in to support the protests,” 10/30/19
- “Dozens of employees of the Ministry of Water Resources participate in the sit-in in Diwaniya,” 10/30/19
- “Employees of the Petroleum Projects Company in Basra demonstrate in solidarity with the protests,” 10/30/19
- “Engineers Syndicate in Diwaniya participate in the sit-in,” 10/30/19
- “Hundreds of Basra doctors march to the province’s square,”10/30/19
- “Hundreds of residents of the eastern Hamza district join the sit-in in Diwaniya,” 10/30/19
- “Karbala sit-in continues and a building under construction is being chanted,” 10/30/19
- “Labor demonstration in the celebration square in the center of Samawa,” 10/30/19
- “Al-Muthanna sit-in: the government must demonstrate its goodwill and restore Internet service without blocking websites,” 10/30/19
- “A peaceful demonstration of the teachers union in Karbala,” 10/30/19
- “PhD students at the University of Qadisiya participate in sit-in,” 10/30/19
- “Students of the Higher Health Institute in Diwaniya participate in the sit-in,” 10/30/19
- “Students of the medical group at Basra University demonstrate in solidarity with public protests,” 10/30/19
- “Teachers Syndicate in the Sunni district of Diwaniya participate in the sit-in,” 10/30/19
- “Thousands of protesters flocked to Sadrin’s square in Najaf,” 10/30/19
- “A women’s demonstration in Zubayr in support of popular protests,” 10/30/19

Nasiriya TV, “In pictures: Student demonstrations renew in Haboubi Square,” 10/30/19
- “Riots and burning tires in the streets of the city of Shatrah,” 10/30/19

NINA, “Hundreds of Kirkuk University students father in solidarity with demonstrators in Baghdad and southern cities,” 10/30/19

NRT, “Artists In Kirkuk Gather In Support Of The Demonstrations In Iraq,” 10/30/19

Rwanduzy, Mohammed, “Sadr issues dire warning of internal conflict if Abdul-Mahdi not ousted,” Rudaw, 10/30/19

Al Sumaria, “Human Rights: 100 people killed and 5,500 protesters and security forces injured,” 10/30/19

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