Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Iraq Protests Get Huge Boost As Students And Professional Groups Join In

Iraqi students joining the protests (Reuters)


Iraq’s protests were ebbing and flowing. On October 28, they received a huge boost when thousands of students and professionals joined. That was offset by the latest acts of violence by the government forces.

Five more people died at the hands of the Iraqi security forces (ISF). All of those occurred in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. A member of the Human Rights Commission said rubber bullets and tear gas cannisters were the causes. The total number of fatalities is unclear. One source said 74 and another said 80. 2 ISF members also died and those are included in the totals. There was no breakdown in the media to help determine the actual number.

The biggest event of the day was the sight of students and professionals joining in with the demonstrations. That included the Bar Association, the Engineers Association, the Teachers Union, along with secondary and university students in Babil, Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, Maysan, Muthanna, Qadisiya, and Wasit. Various announcements were made about strikes, sit-ins, etc. across the south by these new groups. Before the crowds were almost all young men. Now there are plenty of women seen on social media. The inclusion of teenagers and professionals shows that the protests are reverberating throughout more sectors of society. That will put a huge amount of pressure upon the administration because it means that many parts of government will cease to function, and that more cities are joining in.

There were activities across twelve provinces. In Baghdad there was the usual gathering in Tahrir Square. Students went on strike at several schools, and some delivered supplies to the square. The military announced a curfew, but no one followed it. As stated before, the ISF killed five people during the day. The teachers union in Babil said it would join the protests for the next four days. Protests continued to spread in Basra. In Basra city, people gathered at the government building again and were joined by dentists and pharmacists. There was also a march in Zubayr that included students and a protest at the West Qurna 1 oil facility. People attacked a parliamentarian’s house in Dhi Qar, which resulted in his guards shooting into the crowd and wounding seven. Students said they would strike until the protest demands were met, while security forces opened fire upon people in Shatra, and students came out in Gharraf. A sit in had been going on for two days in Karbala city, but at night the ISF set upon them taking down tents, arresting people, and shooting at the crowd with live ammunition. Hundreds of students came out in Maysan along with union members, and started a sit in. Protests and sit ins continued in Samawa and Rumaitha in Muthanna, and were joined by doctors, health workers, and students. A sit in started in Najaf city that included religious students and students from the University of Kufa. In Diwaniya, the Teachers and Medical Unions said they would participate in the protests, which have focused around the government building. The number of people coming out into the streets had been going up and down. Today saw thousands show up across Baghdad and the south. The students will greatly help, and might deter the ISF from using force upon some sites.

There were more solidarity protests in the north. October 27 saw one in the Ninewa Plains. October 28 there were more in Kirkuk, Tikrit, and Baquba. Activists in Anbar said the security forces were carrying out arrests of people who called for a strike there. Sunni areas are very cautious about joining in with the demonstrations. They can easily be accused of being Baathists or Islamic State by the authorities leading to crackdowns. At the start of October, there were similar gatherings but they weren’t sustained because of those fears.

On the political front, some councilmen have quit, Sadr is calling for elections, while parliament continues with empty promises. First, members of the Najaf, Dhi Qar, and Diyala provincial councils all resigned in solidarity with the protests. Sadr’s Sairoon list continues their protest inside the parliament building, while Sadr called for early elections to replace the Abdul Mahdi government. Finally, parliament said it was forming a committee to amend the constitution in four months, and passed a bill to dismiss the provincial councils until the April 2020 balloting. Since the councils are being disbanded the local politicians quitting was purely symbolic, but it was still a strong message sent on the day when so many schools and unions also announced strikes. Parliament saying it would amend the constitution in four months was laughable. The government is completely divided and dysfunctional and shuns all major decisions unless all the party bosses agree, which only usually happens when everyone can benefit such as passing the budget or an election law. There is no way they want to go near the constitution, and even less chance they could finish their work so quickly. This is also the government the people in the streets are demanding to step down. They therefore have no legitimacy to carry out any such major changes. Last, Moqtada al-Sadr continues to be flustered. He hasn’t had the influence over the prime minister he thought. He was rejected by the protest organizers. He’s trying to remain relevant, but seems like he’s always playing catch up.

SOURCES

Aboulenein, Ahmed, “Iraq declares Baghdad curfew as protests persist,” Reuters, 10/28/19

Associated Press, “The Latest: Iraq imposes Baghdad curfew amid protests,” 10/28/19

Baghdad Post, “Students of the University of Kufa in Najaf strike officials hours in solidarity with the demonstrators,” 10/28/19
- “Urgent .. The start of student and university demonstrations in Wsit, Muthanna, Basra, Diwaniya and Babylon,” 10/28/19

Bas News, “Iraqi Parliament Urges Formation of Committee to Amend Constitution,” 10/28/19

BBC, “Iraq protests: Baghdad curfew declared as unrest continues,” 10/28/19

Buratha News, “Five members of the Najaf Council resign from their posts and submit a request to dissolve the provincial council,” 10/28/19

France 24, “Students flood Iraq streets, defying government and parents,” 10/28/19

Al Ghad Press, “7 citizens injured in armed conflict between the protection of MP Nasser Turki and demonstrators in Dhi Qar,” 10/28/19

Hath Al-Youm, “The Bar Association calls on all members to refrain from pleading before the courts for four days,” 10/2819

Al Hurra, “”Iran by land by land” .. And Baghdad breaks the curfew,” 10/28/19
- “Iraq: Five demonstrators killed today in Baghdad,” 10/28/19

Al Mada, “Bombs and rubber bullets kill 4 in Tahrir Square, including a medic,” 10/28/19
- “Government threats and the curfew have not diminished the momentum of the protests,” 10/28/19
- “The liberated provinces enter the line of demonstrations .. And the commander of Basra police: Protesters beat us,” 10/28/19

Al Mirbad, “A demonstration for doctors and health staff in Muthanna,” 10/28/19
- “Dentist and pharmacists in Basra organize a stand in solidarity with the demonstrators,” 10/28/19
- “Dozens start a sit-in amid Samawa,” 10/28/19
- “Hundreds of students in Al-Hamza district in Diwaniya organize a strike 10/28/19
- “Hundreds of university and junior high school students are organizing a sit-in in Maysan, 10/28/19
- “The Medical Syndicate in Diwaniya joins the protests in Al Saha Square,” 10/28/19
- “A new solidarity demonstration in front of the eighth oil plant in West Qurna 1,” 10/28/19
- “A peaceful night demonstration amid tight security in Al-Zubayr district west of Basra,” 10/28/19
- “Protests in Maysan turned into sit-ins with the participation of unions,” 10/28/19
- “Student demonstration in Rumaitha district of Muthanna,” 10/28/19
- “The student demonstration in Samawa ends without incident,” 10/28/19
- “Students join the University of Muthanna demonstrations in Samawah,” 10/28/19
- “Students protesting from Dhi Qar say they will not attend until the demands of the protests are met,” 10/28/19
- “Teachers Syndicate Diwaniya Branch announces the organization of a sit-in inside schools,” 10/28/19
- “Thousands of people from Diwaniya continue to sit in front of the local government headquarters,” 10/28/19
- “Thousands of students sit in front of the gate of Bab Al Zubayr College Complex,” 10/28/19

Nas News, “Forces of at least 4 formations break the Karbala sit-in by force: turn the city into a front,” 10/28/19

Nasiriya TV, “Dhi Qar Council member Shahid al-Ghalbi announces his resignation,” 10/28/19
- “Dhi Qar University students join the demonstration yards in Al-Haboubi Street,” 10/28/19
- “Heavy shooting in Shatrah city,” 10/28/19
- “Hundreds of school students demonstrate in the city of Gharraf,” 10/28/19
- “Tear gas canisters to prevent the burning of a parliamentarian’s house in Shatrah,” 10/28/19
- “Thousands of students arrive at the sit-in square in Haboubi Street” 10/28/19
- “Trade unions in Dhi Qar announce a general strike until the demands of the demonstrators are implemented,” 10/28/19

NINA, “A demonstration starts in Al-Shar towards the headquarters of the local Basra government,” 10/28/19
- “Demonstrations for school students roam the streets of Babylon,” 10/28/19
- “Demonstrators gather near Basra local government building,” 10/28/19
- “Kirkuk students demonstrate in support of demonstrators in Baghdad and the provinces and refuse to harm the Iraqi Kirkuk,” 10/28/19
- “Protesters Shut Down Sania District Council In Diwaniya,” 10/28/19
- “Symbolic Funeral For Martyrs .. Women And University Participation In The Demonstrations In Najaf,” 10/28/19

Rudaw, “Iraq’s students defy ministers, principals to join protests,” 10/28/19

Sky News Arabia, “Iraqi police use live ammunition to disperse protesters in Karbala,” 10/28/19

Al Sumaria, “Bullets and tear gas were fired at Karbala demonstrators,” 10/28/19

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