Recent episodes of foreign interference in Iraq have rekindled the political demands made by protesters across the country.
On Sunday night, protesters in Dhi Qhar and Baghdad Provinces, began closing down main roads in the provinces as the “Nasiriyah ultimatum” expired. The 7-day ultimatum that ended last night, was given to the Iraqi Government by protesters in Dhi Qhar’s Haboubi Square and later adopted by protesters in other cities. According to protesters, the Iraqi Government has made hallow promises for reform, and has not fulfilled any of the protester’s demand. Thus, if the government does not take their demands seriously, they will begin to peacefully increase pressure by closing down main roads, and shutting down all service facilities apart from health centres and hospitals.
This escalation began last night after the protest movement had been largely shadowed by the recent regional developments following the assassination of the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Forces, Qassem Soleimani and Deputy Chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
While another protest is scheduled to take place on Friday 24th January, after the head of the Sa’iroun Coalition, Muqtada al-Sadr, called for a “million-man” march against the US, protesters in Baghdad and Nasiriyah say that al-Sadr’s protests are largely backed by Iran, and do not seek to serve Iraq. Protesters say that al-Sadr’s mobilisation against the US is merely in response to Soleimani and al-Muhandis’ assassinations, accusing him of ignoring Iran’s infringement of Iraqi sovereignty.
“We do not want Iran or America,” protesters chant, adding this to their list of demands. The protests, which are largely composed of 16-24 year-old Iraqis, have been since the start aimed at seeking a better life for the average citizen. This new generation, which witnessed war since childhood say that they do not want their country to be influenced by Iran or the US, but to be ruled, governed and serving the interests of Iraqis. Their most popular chant, “We want a nation,” reveals that amidst foreign interference, these young Iraqis are demanding that their country stay independent.
Thus this latest round of escalation, is aimed at sending a message to the political elite; “heed to our demands, because we are not stepping down.”