Protesters and activists across Iraq are preparing for a new round of demonstrations to take place on October 25th. The new protests come after the reform attempts of the Iraqi Government were decried as "prosthetic changes".
Almost three weeks after the end of the protests that engulfed Iraq, there are signs that the country is bracing for a new round of protests. In the aftermath of the previous round of protests, during which around 149 people were killed and 3458 were injured – according to official estimates – the protesters had stood down, but with a clear signal that this break was to give the Iraqi Government a final chance to fulfil its promises for reforms.
So far, the reforms have come in a number of different iterations. Shortly after the first round of protests ended, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abd al-Mahdi, reshuffled the government, appointing new ministers of heath and education. Another 61 officials were sacked.
The Iraqi Government also formed an investigative committee to assess why protests descended into violence and how so many people were killed. The report, which was published with delays, recommended that that heads of police in Baghdad, Dhi Qhar, Diwaniya, Maysan, Babil, Wasit and Najaf be sacked. It also indicated that the Head of the Baghdad Operations Command and other security officials failed to control their forces, resulting in the deaths of protesters. The Committee also found that some security forces received orders to kill the protesters. Although there have have been rumours that a number of Iran-backed militias were involved, the lack of clear answers in the Committee’s final report has been the source of frustration for people across Iraq.
As a result of these issues, politicians and activists across Iraq decried the efforts of the government as “prosthetic changes”, urging protesters to go out in the streets again. The new date given, October 25th is symbolically important, as it will be the first Friday after the annual Arbaeen Pilgrimage, with passions from the event still running high. In addition, the date also coincides with the reopening of the Parliament following the Arbaeen holidays while also mark the first anniversary of Abd al-Mahdi assuming office, with the protests effectively serving as a referendum for his government.
Events elsewhere in the Middle East may also have an impact on the Iraq protests. In particular, some comparisons have been drawn to the protests in Lebanon which, while less violent and more jubilant, were motivated by similar grievances. With October 25th drawing near, many wonder how these new protests will pan out.