As Iraq’s protests head into their third month there are scattered reports that they are causing splits within the security forces (ISF). Some elements are refusing orders to crackdown upon the demonstrations.
Occasional news stories coming out of Iraq mention divisions within the government’s forces about using force and intimidation against the protests. On November 16 for instance, the commander of the Rapid Reaction Division General Thamir al-Husseini told Al Forat that tear gas cannisters had killed protesters. This came after the Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari and Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi’s military spokesman General Abdul Kareem Khalaf denied that the government had caused any deaths. That same day, Al Mada had a story that 30 members of the ISF had resigned in Baghdad over refusing to shoot at demonstrators, and four days later had a similar story. Then on November 24 Al Mada had an article that officers ignored orders to kidnap protesters. Al Jazeera ran a similar story on November 30 that police did not follow commands for a crackdown. It should be no surprise that the unrest in Iraq has caused difficulties for the security forces. Many members are young men just like many of the people that have taken to the streets. Being told to shoot into crowds therefore is not an easy matter. Obviously, the majority of the ISF are doing what they’re told, hence the 400 plus people that have been killed since the start of October. Yet, these few stories show that there are some that are questioning the government’s policy.
Al Forat, “The commander of the rapid reaction acknowledges the firing of gas bombs in the head and confirms the commander bears responsibility,” 11/16/19
Al Mada, “Al Mada reveals the scenes of the disappearances of activists: luring them into the alleys of Batawin and kidnapping them in civilian cars,” 11/24/19
- “Security forces fail to regain Al-Ahrar and severe sanctions against the planners to narrow the demonstrations,” 11/20/19
- “Sudden withdrawal of security units from Al-Khalani, Al-Senak Bridge and demonstrators gaining a new position,” 11/16/19
Petkova, Mariya, “Shadow of strife looms over Iraq’s political crisis,” Al Jazeera, 11/30/19