Iraq Protest: December 6th to the 12th

November 1 to the 7th

November 8th to the 14th

November 15th to the 21st

November 22nd to the 28th

November 29th to December 5th

Following one of the most deadly weekends since the protests broke out, the Iraqi Parliament continues to find a new Prime Minister. Fear and paranoia is spreading throughout the protests with many believing attempts to hijack the movement are being made by bad actors.  

Unidentified groups of men in pickup trucks are firing on the demonstrates and clearing them from buildings in attempts to disburse some of their strongholds.

The UN is condemning the use of force and are demanding accountability.  

Below are some of the major events from December 6th to the 12th.

December 6th

The US announced sanctions targeting individual leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces, according to Reuters.

The sanctions target Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Iran-backed militia and his brother Laith al-Khazali, another leader of the group, according to a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department.
They also target Hussein Falih al-Lami, security chief for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Iraq’s state umbrella group of paramilitary factions, which is dominated by groups backed by Iran, including Asaib.
The Treasury Department said in its statement that groups led by the three paramilitary leaders “opened fire on peaceful protests, killing dozens of innocent civilians.” Reuters reported last month that Lami, known also as Abu Zainab al-Lami, had directed fighters to open fire on protesters.

Demonstrators in Baghdad call for the release of a missing photographer, according to the Middle East Eye.

Zaid al-Khafaji, 22, a photojournalist who had documented Iraq's ongoing protest movement since the beginning of December, disappeared while walking home from Tahrir Square, which has become the epicentre of anti-government demonstrations.
One family member, sounding audibly upset on the phone, told Middle East Eye that Khafaji had been taken from outside their house.
"Zaid knocked on the door at 4am. We heard screaming and shouting and when we opened the door, he was gone," they said.

Thousands of protesters arrived in Baghdad from southern Iraq after Sistani's weekly sermon, were he said according to ABC News

“We hope the head of the new government and it's members are chosen within the constitutional deadline and according to the aspirations of the people and away from outside influence,” the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said in his weekly Friday sermon in the holy city of Najaf. The sermon is always delivered by a representative.
He added that the Shiite religious establishment would not take part in the government formation process.

In Nassiriya, demonstrators carried coffins with lost loved one's pictures attached, according to Reuters.

A short distance from a bridge in southern Nassiriya where Iraqi security forces gunned down their friends, young women and men set out rows of mock coffins, each draped in an Iraqi flag with pictures of the slain protesters taped on.
...
Activists carried the coffins through the city, joining a mile-long march commemorating scores of Nassiriya residents killed in two months of demonstrations against the Iraqi government.

Violence broke out near Tahrir Square according to NewsUS

In one of the bloodiest nights in the capital since protests began nearly 130 others were wounded by gunfire and stabbings targeting anti-government protesters at the Sinak bridge near Tahrir Square, sources said. The death toll includes three members of the police.

More reports of armed men in pick-up trucks attacking protesters, according to Reuters.

Gunmen on pick-up trucks late on Friday attacked a large building near the al-Sinak bridge where anti-government protesters had been camped out for weeks.
"According to our sources, this violence began late last night around Khilani Square that's just north of Tahrir Square," Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari said on Saturday, reporting from Baghdad.
The attackers forced the protesters out of the building and live rounds could be heard after the altercation.
State television said the building had been torched "by unidentified men".
The attacks claimed the lives of 22 protesters and three policemen, officials said.

Throughout the day, according to Antiwar.com

In Baghdad, gunmen killed 25 people near Khalani Square. About 105 people were wounded in a second day of direct attacks on Baghdad demonstrators. Apparently, several may have been killed at a building overlooking the protests. Demonstrators had been camped in the uninhabited building for weeks, when armed men in pick-up trucks arrived to forcibly evict the demonstrators from the building. Separately, a photographer was kidnapped after covering the protest at Tahrir Square.

December 7th

Fears and suspension of infiltration by bad actors in spreading among protesters, according to the Middle East Eye.

Protesters, who increasingly cover their faces to conceal identities, speak in low tones about what they see as an infiltration of the popular uprising by "thugs".
...
Mohamed accused troublemakers at the demonstrations of increasingly using what started out two months ago as largely peaceful protests as a cover for their own ends.
"At night, some people come with knives and light weapons and try to destroy the protest from within," Mohamed said. "We don't know what to do, and there's no one here to say what's wrong and what's right.

According to Reuters, Maqtada al-Sadr's home was attacked.

A rocket fired from a drone targeted the home of populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday, lawmakers from his Saeroon party said, following one of the capital’s bloodiest nights in recent weeks.
The drone attack, which caused little damage and left no casualties, followed a deadly attack by armed men near Baghdad’s main protest site on Friday night, which left at least 23 dead, police and medical sources said.

December 8th

Dispite the violence, protesters are showing out in larger numbers all across Iraq, according to The New Arab.

Thousands of Iraqi protesters streamed into streets and public squares in the capital Baghdad and the restive south on Sunday, saying they were not deterred by deadly violence meant to "scare" them.
In Baghdad, crowds of anti-government demonstrators thronged Tahrir Square, the epicentre of their movement.
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In Nasiriyah, a protest hotspot where dozens were killed in a spree of violence last month, protesters regrouped in downtown along with representatives of powerful tribes.
"We will keep protesting until the regime collapses," pledged Ali Rahim, a student.
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Road blocks and massive strikes also disrupted work in Hilla, Amara, Diwaniya, Kut and the shrine city of Najaf, AFP's correspondents there said.

Some insightful analysis from Antiwar.com about the use of force on the demonstrators.

Iraq’s protests have continued to surge, and violence has had little impact in most cases, or led to even bigger rallies. The only thing that showed any sign of interesting protests were immediate promises of reform, and since the government has reneged on all of those, even they are seeming less and less likely to have an impact.

Throughout the day, according to Antiwar.com

In Karbala, a gunman on a motorcycle (video) shot and killed an activist, Fahem Abu Ali Al-Tae’ie, who is associated with Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement. A bomb wounded a professor, who organized protest committees.
Authorities in Nasariya say that 25 people were killed during Thursday’s protests, prompting the local tribes to take over security concerns.
Protesters returned to Baghdad and several southern cities on Sunday, the first day of the workweek, despite the violence that occurred on Friday.
In Najaf, an armed drone attacked the home of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday. Only an outer wall was reported damaged. The attack comes hours after members of Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades) arrived in Baghdad, to protect the demonstrators.

December 9th

The PMF website had back hacked. The hacker posted a claim that the PMF was behind Friday's killing of protesters and that Sadr had given the order, according to the New Arab.

Iraq's Popular Mobilizsation Forces authority, also known as Hashd Al-Shaabi, announced that its website was hacked following a statement that they were responsible for an attack that killed dozens.
...
Shortly after the attack, the PMF admitted to carrying it out in a statement on their website, blaming Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for orchestrating it.

Sunday evening, they released another statement claiming to have been hacked.

"The hackers published a statement about the unfortunate events of al-Khulani Square, which is incorrect, and it was deleted," Hashd said in a statement.

Four ambassadors had been called by Iraq's foreign ministry over a letter that condemned the killing of protesters Friday.

Ambassadors Dr Ole Dieh (Germany), Jonathan Wilks (UK) and Bruno Aubert (France) had met with caretaker premier Adel Abdel Mahdi on Sunday, where they reportedly said in a statement that "no armed group should be able to operate outside of the control of the state".
The Canadian Ambassador Ulric Shannon added that the state should not allow "armed groups with special agendas" to roam free.
In response the ministry said it had summoned all four envoys for their "unacceptable intervention in Iraq's internal affairs".

December 10th

Iraq's President calls for demonstrators and parliament blocs to come together in selecting new PM, according to Xinhuanet.

Iraqi President Barham Salih on Tuesday urged anti-government protesters and the political blocs to work together to nominate a new prime minister.
"We can all cooperate to nominate whoever we agree upon to head the (Council of Ministers) cabinet and form a new government within the constitutional terms," Salih said in a statement issued on the 2nd anniversary of the liberation of Iraq from the extremist Islamic State (IS) group.

Throughout the day according to Anitwar.com

Fifteen people were injured in protests at the Umm Qasr port near Basra. Some of the injured were security personnel.

In Amara, bombers targeted two pro-Iran factions; four people were wounded.

Protests continued in Baghdad, Diwaniya, and Karbala.

December 11th

According to The New Arab, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako has cancelled Christmas in solidarity with the protesters.

There will be no Christmas tree in Baghdad as Iraq's Christians population lend their support to anti-government protests.
...
The tribute, demonstrators explained to the Washington Post, was to honour the decision made by Christian leaders to cancel the festivities, and instead remember all the people who died.

During a recent visit to Tahrir Square, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, of the Chaldean Church in Iraq said "a new Iraq is being born".

"Now there you feel you are Iraqi," he told The Associated Press.

Morally and spiritually we cannot celebrate in such an atmosphere of tension… it's not normal to celebrate our joy and happiness while others are dying. That doesn't work.

He urged the government to listen to the demands of the protestors. "The military solution is bad," he said.
"We have suffered a lot. Since the collapse of the old regime many have been killed, others kidnapped, others threatened and left, and many homes and properties of Christians have been occupied by militias," Sako added.

"So the protestors are telling them [the government] we look for justice and stability and to be equal citizens. We ask for the same justice for ourselves."

The UN has issued a report on the use of force against protesters, according to AP.

The report from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq called on the government to identify unknown groups targeting protesters and hold them accountable, in a report released on Wednesday based on 183 interviews conducted between Nov. 5 and Dec. 5.
“UNAMI continues to receive credible allegations of deliberate killings, abduction and arbitrary detention carried out by unknown armed men described as ‘militia’, ‘unknown third parties’, ‘armed entities,’ ‘outlaws’ and ‘spoilers’,” the report said.
“The government must identify those groups responsible without delay and hold perpetrators accountable," the report went on. “Bearing the primary responsibility for the protection of its people, the state must spare no effort to protect the peaceful protesters from violence by armed actors operating outside state control as well as those with formal and informal reporting lines within the state.”
The U.N. also said “credible information” indicated that high profile activists and journalists were being targeted for arrest by both Iraqi security forces and “groups described as ‘militia.'" At least five high-profile activists have recently gone missing, the report said.

Throughout the day, according to Antiwar.com.

In Baghdad, the bullet-riddled body of protester, Ali al-Lami, was discovered in Shabb a day after he was kidnapped. At Wathba Square, 31 protesters were wounded when security forces fired tear gas.

December 12th

A suicide bomber killed 7 Iraqi's loyal to Sadr, according to AlArabiya.

Seven Iraqi fighters were killed north of Baghdad on Thursday when a suicide bomber attacked a base of an armed group led by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the army said.
The attack, which also wounded three fighters, was carried out by “a suicide terrorist,” it said, using its standard term for ISIS.
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
The attack took place late in the day near Tharthar lake southwest of Samarra, a longtime stronghold of extremist groups some 100 kilometers north of Baghdad.

A teenager was killed by a mob for shooting and killing anti-government protesters, according to AP.

An angry mob killed a 16-year-old and strung up the corpse by its feet from a traffic pole after the teen shot and killed six people on Thursday, including four anti-government protesters, Iraqi officials said.
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The killing of the teenager was condemned by the wider protest movement in Tahrir Square, which said in a statement that the perpetrators were not part of their peaceful demonstrations.
"We can't allow the image of our pure revolution to be distorted, so we declare that we are innocent as peaceful demonstrators to what happened this morning in Wathba Square," the statement said.

Sadr has threatened to pull his malitia away from protecting to protesters if the people resonsible for the teens death are not identified, according to the Middle East Eye.

Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has threatened to pull his supporters from Baghdad's Tahrir Square unless those responsible for lynching a teenager there are found.
According to police and witnesses, a dispute between a 17-year-old male and protesters - who accused him of attacking a protest camp - spiralled into violence which saw the teenager's body strung up from a lampost.
Police also accused protesters of setting fire to the nearby house of the young man.
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"If within 48 hours, the terrorists responsible are not identified, the blue helmets will have to withdraw from all the places where protesters assemble," it wrote.
Powerful Iran-backed militia leader Qais al-Khazali - who was recently targeted by US sanctions - denounced the "chaos" he has warned of since protests began.
"How long will this chaos and lawlessness continue, these weak security forces and proliferation of weapons and dirty militias," he asked on Twitter.

This marks one of the darkest weeks of the protests. With the lynching of the teenager leading to Sadr threatening to pull his forces away from protecting the demonstrators and the fears of infiltration by bad actors spreading, we could be seeing the beginning of the fracturing of the movement.

The suicide bombing that killed the Sadr's loyalist and the attacks on his house are also signs of an internal struggle.  All of this on top of the growing number of protest organizers and journalist being kidnapped or killed and the unidentified groups murdering protesters and causing disturbances, it's looking like many peoples worst fears could be becoming a reality and that a civil war could be brewing under the surface of what started out as a peaceful demonstration by Iraqi nationalist looking to remove corruption and foreign influence from their government.

Please check back next week for December 13th to the 19th.

Take care.

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