Baghdad has announced creation of 2 committees to investigate violence during protests (Al Mada)
The last protests in Iraq took place on October 9. Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi claimed he made a deal to hold off on further activism until after the Arbaeen pilgrimage. Now demonstrators said they would return October 25. There have been posts on social media on preparations such as making metal shields for protection against the security forces. It’s yet to be seen whether the government will respond again with violence, which cost over 100 lives, and saw attacks upon the media.
In the meantime, Baghdad is under pressure to carry out concessions. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s representative gave a Friday sermon saying the government was responsible for the many deaths, and demanded an investigation in two weeks’ time. In response two committees have been formed, one by the cabinet and one by the military to investigate what happened. President Barham Salah has repeated his comments that people have to be held responsible, and the government has started some reforms, such as providing some jobs. In previous years, the government first offered compromises to demonstrators and then resorted to force. This year, the security forces shot at the crowds the first day tremendously escalating the situation. As the bodies piled out the mood of the crowd quickly changed from demanding better governance to having the administration resign to calls for revolution. That means nothing the prime minister is doing will satisfy those who came out into the streets. Setting up another round of commissions that never result in anything substantive or offering a handful of employment opportunities are more of the same rather than the radical approaches people want. Even Ayatollah Sistani’s condemnation of Baghdad came after the protests were over rather than when the bodies were piling up. The elite are not capable of responding to this situation, which is why people are talking about coming out once more.
At the same time, the crackdown upon protesters continues. Mid East Eye reported that young people are being stopped at checkpoints, the security forces are demanding to see their phones, and if they have photos or videos of the demonstration they are arrested. Two activists disappeared, and raids are going on against protesters, bloggers and journalists. People have fled the capital as a result. Again, this shows that the government is responding with the stick more than offering carrots this time around. Similar intimidation tactics were used last year, and continued far after the demonstrations ended. If people fail to organize on October 25, it will be because of Baghdad’s repression.
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Al Baghdadiya Group, “Calls for a large demonstration in all provinces Friday 25 October,” 10/12/19
Bas News, “Abdul Mahdi Office: Agreement to suspend demonstrations beyond Arbaeen,” 10/8/19
Al Hurra, “Against the background of the demonstrations .. The authorities are pursuing Iraqi activists,” 10/12/19
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Al Jazeera, “Iraq’s Abdul Mahdi orders inquiry into protester deaths,” 10/12/19
Al Mirbad, “Oil announces 650 new jobs for graduates,” 10/13/19
NINA, “The Religious Authority Holds The Govt the Responsibility For The Bloodshed And Demands An Investigation Into What Happened In The Demonstrations/More,” 10/11/19
Al-Rubaie, Azhar, “Iraqi activists complain of privacy ‘violation’ as security services monitor phones,” Mid East Eye,” 10/12/19
Yes Iraq, “Circulation of photos of local workshops making shields from barrels to protect the protesters in preparation for the October 25 demonstrations,” 10/13/19