PM Abdul Mahdi's govt released a report on violence used against protests which whitewashes those responsible (Al Forat)
Under pressure from Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who called for the government to hold responsible those who were behind the murder of protesters at the start of October 2019, the Iraqi government released its report on the violence. It claimed that the commanders of the Iraqi forces (ISF) lost control of their troops during the demonstrations and recommended that several officers be removed or investigated. No politicians nor the Hashd were blamed. This was a white wash to cover up those really responsible.
The government report put all blame for the suppression of the demonstrations upon the police and army. It found 149 civilians were killed and 4,207 were wounded. Baghdad led the country with 107 deaths and 3,458 injured, followed by 19 dead in Dhi Qar, 7 in Diwaniya, 6 in Maysan, 5 in Najaf, 4 in Wasit, and 1 in Babil. It claimed no order was ever given to fire into crowds, and that the commanders lost control of their forces during the chaos caused by the unrest. Despite that snipers were deployed and 70% of the fatalities were due to shots to the head and chest. It named the Baghdad Operations Command head, the commanders of the army’s 11th Division and the Federal Police’s 1st Division, along with the police chiefs in Babil, Dhi Qar, Muthanna, Najaf, Qadisiya and Wasit, and several other officers as being responsible and that they be fired, punished or investigated for crimes. Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, the political class, and the Hashd were spared in the document. While the paper named names, a rarity in Iraq it was basically a cover for those who were really behind the repression. First, the demonstrations lasted from October 1 to 9. Every day, people were shot at by the security forces. If the report is to be believed, each day the ISF gathered before the crowds assembled, tried to break them up, lost control, shot and killed civilians, and then did the exactly same thing the next day. It’s also been widely reported that the Hashd were involved using snipers, raiding TV stations, etc., and yet they are not mentioned. The commanders, the Interior and Defense Ministers, the Hashd Commission led by the National Security Adviser, along with Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi were apparently powerless to discipline or better organize the ISF for nine days straight. This meant the prime minister either had no control over his forces, told them to stop and they did nothing, or was actually involved.
Michael Knights of the Washington Institute found that the Iraqi government and Iran worked together to put down the protests. On October 3, two offices were set up in Baghdad, one being in the Hashd Commission, to create a crisis cell to deal with the protests. The group included Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander General Qasim, Suleimani, Abu Jihad Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi’s chief of staff, National Security Adviser and head of the Hashd Commission Falah Fayad, Abu Muhandis the deputy head of the Hashd Commission, along with various other Hashd leaders such as Qais Khazali the head of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq. This group coordinated measures to deal with the streets along with running the sniper teams. It’s believed the Hashd also detained dozens of people and took them to unofficial prisons they run such as in Babil’s Jurf al-Sakhr, which is a base run by Kataibh Hezbollah. This is supported by the United Nation’s Human Rights Office in Iraq that found suspected Hashd units took people away to places like Mahmudiya in outer Baghdad province. There will likely be more revelations about the involvement of top government officials, the Hashd and Iran’s involvement especially if demonstrations are met with force again when they restart later this week. It also highlights how the official report was simply looking to scapegoat the police and army, and excuse others, namely the prime minister. Just as important, the Iraqi public is not going to take the government’s version of events at face value, and just adds to the cynicism many Iraqis feel about their rulers, which led them into the streets to begin with.
Human Rights Office, “Human Rights Special Report, Demonstrations in Iraq, 1-9 October 2019, Baghdad, Iraq,” United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), 10/22/19
Al Hurra, “By names .. Who are the leaders who were removed by the report of the killing of demonstrators in Iraq?” 10/22/19
Knights, Michael, “Exposing and Sanctioning Human Rights Violations by Iraqi Militias,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 10/22/19
Rasheed, Ahmed, Aboulenein, Ahmed, “Iraqi security forces killed 149 protesters, most by shots to head, chest: government inquiry,” Reuters, 10/22/19
Rubin, Alissa, “Iraq Will Prosecute Military and Police Leaders Over Protest Shootings,” New York Times, 10/22/19