News : Middle East
- Published: Tuesday, 24 December 2019
Iraq has witnessed escalating waves of large protests. State repression and violence are always quick to follow. During this most recent uprising, it is estimated that state security forces and their allies have killed over 420 protesters and wounded over 15,000.
Thousands more have been kidnapped, likely by Iran-aligned paramilitaries. The protests have gone against this sectarian grain. They are happening all over the country, though their focal point is Tahrir Square in Baghdad. Events over the past three weeks capture the pace of developments, and most importantly, the increasing sway of non-sectarian and progressive values.
The violence of militant groups associated with the federal government and backed by neighboring Iran against protesters rallying against corruption and Iranian interference has also come under the spotlight this week.
Human Rights Watch released a damning report on Monday, blaming the Iraqi government for dozens of protester deaths that occurred in a coordinated attack in the capital Baghdad by pro-regime militants closely aligned to neighboring power Iran.
Despite Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation, the protests have continued because the protesters don’t want only the removal of this or that politician, but real system change. They are proposing a fundamental change to the electoral system, calling for more popular representation, and circulating for popular feedback a draft of a new electoral law to push governing parties out of power.
Demonstrators in the capital Baghdad and nine other provinces on Friday rejected all candidates for the premiership who had been suggested by the political parties.
Protesters in Tahrir Square hold placards reading: Do not fool yourself, you corrupted ones. Choose a fair law or we will show another scene. We will not remain silent and we will not give up. Death to your law. For fidelity to the blood of the martyrs, we demand a fair election. Don’t waste time.
Meanwhile, on Monday, thousands of protesters blocked roads and bridges in southern Iraq, condemning Iranian influence and political leaders who have missed another deadline to agree on a new prime minister.
One of the main demands of the protesters is that the future Iraqi Prime Minister must be someone who has not held any political posts since 2003.
In the south of Iraq, anti-government demonstrators burned tires in major cities, forcing the closure of schools and government buildings.
In Nasiriyah, protesters bulldozed the home of a local official on Saturday. The house belongs to Jabbar Mousawi, former head of the provincial committee for Dhi Qar security. The move comes after a prominent activist was assassinated on Friday in central Nasiriyah.
Following the assassination, the people in three southern provinces of Iraq went on strike on Sunday to condemn the ongoing violence against protesters. Schools, universities, and government institutions were closed while students and employees joined protesters on streets across Najaf, Dhi Qar, and Diwaniyah provinces.
The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights called on Friday for the Interior Ministry to put an end to the assassination and kidnapping of activists protesting the government and its politicians.
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