Politics & Economics

Iraqi Protesters Rally In Attempt To Recapture Momentum

Iraq

Iraqi protesters are once again gathering in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. Marking 100 days since the new round of protests started, the protesters hope to prevent their movement from being overshadowed by the local and regional developments gripping the country.

SULAIMANI — People flocked to Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Friday (January 10) in response to calls for large demonstrations to mark the passage of 100 days since the beginning of an anti-government uprising at the beginning of October.

The protests initially focused on bread-and-butter issues like unemployment, corruption, and poor public services, but quickly grew into larger calls for systemic change and for the government to step down. The protest movement quickly spread to the southern provinces as well.

Protesters have also strongly spoken out against foreign interference in Iraqi affairs, particularly by Iran and the United States.

Around 500 people have been killed in the government’s attempted crackdown and an estimated 17,000 wounded. The security forces and outside armed groups have used live bullets, sniper fire, tear gas, and sound grenades against protesters and burned down their protest camps in an attempt to drive them from the squares that they occupy in Baghdad and provincial capitals.

Human rights groups have extensively documented their use of military-grade tear gas canisters, shot directly at the heads and torsos of the demonstrators, causing horrific injuries.

Activists and ordinary protesters have also been subjected to a “campaign of terror,” where militias and the security forces have singled them out for abduction and targeted killings.

The protests forced Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to offer his resignation to the Council of Representatives at the begging of December. However, he remains in office in a caretaker capacity, with President Barham Salih and several major Shia parties unable to agree about how to proceed.

Beyond government paralysis, protesters have also had to contend with rapidly escalating tensions between the US and Iran with Iraqis caught in the middle.

The demonstrations on Friday are designed to reinvigorate the protests after attention was deflected by squabbling between the parties and hostility between Washington and Tehran. To organizers, it represents an opportunity to reassert their demands for the government to step down, new elections to be held, and Iraq to reassert its sovereignty.

In Basra, protesters gathered on Friday morning saying that they were marching to mourn those who had been killed during the protests and to continue to pressure the government to step down.

As has been a hallmark of the protests, the Iraqi flag was prominently displayed in a sign of national unity, sovereignty, and anti-sectarianism.

Protesters also gathered in Nasiriya, which has seen extreme violence used against demonstrators resulting in the deaths of dozens there, and in Kut.

Article: NRT

Image: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters