Iraq Protest: November 1st to the 7th

With the protest reignited in Iraq and the amount of causalities and wounded rapidly rising, it may be hard to keep up with the whirlwind of reports and articles coming out.  In this article I attempt to roundup all of the major events over the last week from the 1st of November to the 7th.  

November 1st

One day after President Sahil's statement claimed PM Mahdi would be stepping down once a 'acceptable replacement' could be agreed on and early elections would be held, Iraq saw the largest mass demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 with tens of thousands taking to the streets.

In stark defiance to curfews, protesters played music and honked car horns throughout the night.  Shi'ite militias were also present, claiming they stand with the protesters.

According to the Times of Israel

The militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, said in a statement that they stood with the protesters and were committed to protecting them. But the statement warned of “foreign interests” that it said wanted to sow division in order to cause “internal fighting, chaos and destruction.”

The 'foreign interests' mentioned is Iran who has stood behind and voiced their desire for MP Mahdi to remain in power.

According to AntiWar.com

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned of “civil conflict, chaos and destruction” should security or paramilitary forces escalate the violence. He also seemed to take specific issue with Iranian interference. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force traveled to Baghdad this week for meetings concerning the protests.
In Baghdad, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered for what is described as the biggest protest since the fall of Saddam Hussein. One woman was killed by a tear gas canister, and 350 others were wounded. Five dead were reported the previous night. Amnesty International reported that security forces were using grenades that are 10 times heavier than standard issue, and purposefully aiming at protesters.
About 3,000 protesters were reported in Diwaniya

Protesters begin blocking one of the major sea ports in Iraq. the Umm Qasr port is just south of Bashar.

November 2

According to Aljazeera

Protesters on Saturday burned tyres and set up concrete blocks around the Umm Qasr port, south of the city of Basra, after security forces moved in overnight to try and disperse a sit-in.

The sit in at the port of Umm Qasr turned violent.

According to Antiwar.com

In Basra, security forces used live rounds and tear gas to try to dislodge protesters near the Umm Qasr port. About 120 people were wounded or suffered from the effects of tear gas. Operations at the port stalled on Wednesday when demonstrators blocked roads. Much of Iraq’s food supply and other goods come in through the port. Oil exports are unaffected because they are loaded at offshore platforms.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement.

According to The New Arab

"The government of Iraq should listen to the legitimate demands made by the Iraqi people who have taken to the streets to have their voices heard," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, urging all sides to refrain from violence.
"The government of Iraq's investigation into the violence in early October lacked sufficient credibility and the Iraqi people deserve genuine accountability and justice,"

November 3

PM Mahdi issued a statement to the protesters

According to Reuters

Abdul Mahdi said the protests which “shook the political system” have achieved their purpose and must stop effecting the country’s trade and economic activities.
“Threatening the oil interests and blocking roads leading to Iraq’s ports is causing big losses exceeding billions of dollars,” said Abdul Mahdi, warning that unrest was pushing up prices of goods.

An Emerati cell had been arrested by the Iraqi Security Forces for caring out unspecified destabilizing acts.

According to The New Arab

A cell linked to the Emirati security service has been arrested in Iraq on suspicion of infiltrating the ongoing anti-government protest movement, according to local media.
The cell has been carrying out activities aimed at destabilising the Iraqi state, although its specific actions have not been made public, nor have Iraq’s authorities confirmed the arrests.
The group, whose members are allegedly Lebanese, is also directly linked to the United Arab Emirates’ National Security Advisor Tahnoun bin Zayed, claimed independent radio station, Voice of Iraq.

Meanwhile  Muqtada al-Sadr visits Iran.

According to The New Arab

Although Sadr visits Qom frequently for family and religious reasons, his most recent trip has surprised observers due to its timing in the middle of the protests which threaten to bring down the government.
Sadr himself is one of the current government's two main sponsors after his Saeroon bloc won the largest share of parliament's 329 seats in a vote last year. It gained popular support due to Sadr's Iraqi nationalist, anti-corruption and anti-sectarian platform, condemning both US and Iranian meddling in the country’s politics.

In Karbala according to Antiwar.com

Karbala saw its large protests turn violent, as demonstrators marched on and attacked the Iranian consulate in the key Shi’ite holy city. They brought down the Iranian flag and replaced it with an Iraqi one.

November 4

Violence between protesters and security forces breaks out across Iraq.

According to Antiwar.com

On Monday, Iraqi special forces and police opened fire on the demonstrators in several cities, killing a number of them and wounding dozens more. The largest such incidents took place near the Green Zone, where the PM ordered special forces to “reinforce” the area, and bragged on them having “dealt with” approaching protesters.

In addition to Baghdad, police opened fire with live ammunition near the Iranian consulate in Karbala. A protester was also reported killed in the southern town of Shatra. Over 250 have been killed since protests began last month.

Netblocks.org said Internet connectivity was below 19% of the usual traffic in Iraq, making this the most wide spread internet outage in the country so far.

Police in Anbar began arresting people for voicing protest solidarity on social media.

According to Hrw.org

In recent days, they have arrested two men for merely posting messages of solidarity on Facebook, questioned a third, and sent a fourth into hiding.

Protesters in Baghdad blocking police at 'checkpoints'

According to France24.com

One recent evening, police officers erected a row of concrete t-walls on the same street, sealing off access to Tahrir Square, ground zero for protests in the capital.
Demonstrators -- one riding a motorised red rickshaw known as a tuk-tuk -- sprung into action, chasing down the police.
The tuk-tuk came to a screeching halt in front of the truck, blocking its exit as young Iraqi men pressured officers to reopen the road to Tahrir.
Improbably, the officers relented, and the enormous truck reversed up the road to lift the barriers as the victorious tuk-tuk followed.

Iran issues a ban on Iranian nationals from making religious pilgrimages into Iraq due to the protests.

Throughout the day at least 12 protesters were killed, and 87 were injured according to Antiwar.com.

November 5

Officials try and dispel rumors of defectors in the Government supporting the protesters.

According to the Middle East Monitor

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Al-Sahaf, told the Anadolu Agency: “I categorically deny this news (…) the ministry’s staff is fully operative at the level of the centre, in Baghdad, and embassies and the missions are committed to official duties.”
Al-Sahaf added: “The circulated information is false, and Hassan Al-Janabi, Iraq’s ambassador to Ankara is currently performing his duties.”

Iraq announces the return of 45,000 troops back to military service.

According to The Middle East Monitor

“A total of 45,049 soldiers have been returned to the national military service,” the ministry said, adding that it was continuing to issue administrative orders to return all dissolved ex-soldiers to the service.

Violence continued through the day.

According to Antiwar.com

At least 19 people were killed, and 31 were injured:
In Baghdad, security forces killed five people at a funeral.
Three people were killed and as many as eight were wounded during a protest at the Umm Qasr port facilities near Basra. Demonstrators stormed a military base.
Continued violence in Shatra left two dead and 23 wounded overnight. Protesters also burned down the home of MP Zainab Khazraji.
In Nasariya, two protestors were shot dead.

November 6

Security Forces use force to break up the sit in protests on major bridges.

According to Reuters

Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live rounds into the air to disperse protesters in central Baghdad on Wednesday, killing one person, as the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in decades spread out across the capital.
The shootings took place on or near three of Baghdad’s main bridges - Ahrar, Shuhada, and Bab al-Muadham - which have become focal points of the protests.

MP Mahdi says he will use 'new level of force' to 'completely destroy the protesters'

According to The National

“Baghdad are really going to crack down on the protesters, they have made a decision,” the official said. “It looks like the prime minister has made a decision that he’s going to use force. He’s going to completely destroy the protesters.”
The official said that the Iraqi leader will give “free rein” to the security services to “dismantle the protesters and clear them from the buildings and the bridges”, which they have been occupying to rail against corruption and economic hardship.
“I suspect that it’s going to get more violent,” the intelligence operative said.

Reports of the protests costing Iraq 6 Billion in losses due to the closed port of Umm Qasr in Basra.

Mass arrests were made throughout the country as violence escalated

According to Antiwar.com

A number of activists have been detained by authorities in several cities and provinces including Baghdad, Basra, Dhi Qar, Karbala, and Maysan. Security forces reportedly undertook the mass arrests without having proper warrants. There are also fears that militias are intimidating the demonstrators. A vigilwas held in Tahrir Square for missing activist, Siba al-Mahdawi, who was kidnapped four days ago.
At least 11 people were killed, and 59 were injured.

November 7

The violent crack down continued to ramp up as police torched protest camp sites in Basra.

According to Antiwar.com

At least 16 people were killed, and 70 were injured:
In Baghdad, despite reassurances that security forces would not use live rounds against protesters, security forces shot dead six protesters at Shuhada Bridge; at least 35 were wounded.
Four people were shot dead by security forces at a sit-in in Basra. Security personnel are also accused of setting fire to tents. Tear gas affected at least 35 demonstrators.
In Amara, an activist was shot. Amjad Al-Dahamat was killed as he left a protest site.
Protesters were dislodged from the Umm Qasr port, but relatives of a demonstrator who was killed in early demonstrations later returned.
Fuel shortages are being reported in the southern provinces after deliveries were blocked at a Nasariya refinery.

It seems MP Mahdi was serious about a 'new level of force' and is looking like things will only be getting more violence in the days to come.  Oddly enough the violence seems to be only emboldening the protesters and reaffirming their conviction in demanding for the removal of MP Mahdi and a restructuring of the Iraq government. I will be continuing to post weekly updates on the Protests so please check back next week.  

Take care.

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