Iraq Protest: November 8th to the 14th

If you missed November 1-7, click this link.

The Protest in Iraq continued on over the last week with more violent crack downs from the State while everyone from the UN to local religious leaders called for an end to the violence.  It appears that Mahdi was not bluffing when he ordered a 'new level of force' to be used to stomp out the protest. The following are a summery of the major events from the 8th of November to the 14th.

November 8th

According to The New Arab

At least 10 people have been killed by security forces in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and the nearby port of Umm Qasr, medical sources told The New Arab on Friday.
More than 200 people were also injured in the two cities.

Most of the casualties were due to live gunfire, and Iraqi security forces have also burned tents belonging to protesters

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s sermon for the week praised the protesters for holding the government accountable and condemned the violence from the security forces. He also warned of 'internal and external forces' at work in Iraq for decades and advised the protesters to be weary.  He did not elaborate but it is assumed he means foreign influence high jacking the protest movement and steering into a more favorable direction.

According to DetroitNews.com

“The political powers … have a unique opportunity to respond to people’s demands, according to an agreed upon roadmap, that should be implemented in a specific period to put an end to a long period of corruption,” said Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalaie, al-Sistani’s representative. “It is no longer permissible to procrastinate on this issue because of the great risks facing the country.”

According to Antiwar.com

Though Sistani rarely takes direct political positions, on those rare occasions he does his word is considered law, and with a number of Iraq’s Shi’ite factions already questioning the government’s policy, this further solidifies that changes have to happen.

Throughout the day at least 11 people had been killed, with 232 wounded.

According to Antiwar.com

In Baghdad, one protester died when a tear gas canister struck him in the head. On Rashad Street, 32 people were injured by canisters and rubber bullets. Amnesty International reported that the military grade tear gas canisters killing protesters are Iranian-made.
At least nine people were killed during crowd dispersals in Basra. One of them was an elderly woman who died after inhaling tear gas; five of the dead were shot by masked gunmen. Also, a man wounded during protest at the Umm Qasr port has died of his injuries. Over 200 people were wounded. Live rounds were blamed for many of the casualties.
Security forces tore down tents in the holy city of Karbala.

November 9th

An 'agreement' was reached by the political class for Mahdi to remain as PM.

According to the New Arab

The country's various political factions came to an agreement on Saturday to end the protests and keep unpopular Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in power, prompting the deployment of security forces to sweep the streets of demonstrators.

Iran had been a main factor in this 'agreement' to end protest according to Antiwar.com

The drive to end the protests is, as in the past, coming out of Iran, and Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was sent to Najaf and Baghdad to meet with top Iraqi Shi’ite officials and inform them that Iran prefers Abdel Mahdi remain in power.

Security forces begin retaking key bridges the protesters have occupied.

According to The New Arab

They retook the Al-Sinek, Al-Shuhada and Al-Ahrar bridges over the River Tigris that link the east bank, where the main protest camps are located, with neighbourhoods on the west bank that are home to government offices and foreign embassies.
Protesters still occupy part of Al-Jumhuriyah (Republic) Bridge, the southernmost of the capital's bridges and the closest to the main protest camp in Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

During the reclaiming of the bridges,  according to Antiwar.com

Officially, at least six people were killed and 140 were wounded. Five of them died by gunshots; a sixth died when a gas canister hit his head.

Elsewhere in the country according to Antiwar.com

At least three people were killed, and dozens were wounded in Basra.
Ten people were wounded at other protest sites, including one in Nasariya.
Operations resumed at the Umm Qasr port after protesters prevented the passage of supplies.
Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights said on Saturday that over 300 people have been killed so far, and more than 15,000 have been wounded.

November 10th

The UN on Sunday presented their own roadmap for Iraq, likely in response to Iran's

According to AP

On Sunday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq urged the country's politicians to chart a way forward and proposed a roadmap, saying time is of essence.
In a statement it laid out a series of short- and longer-term measures to deal with the crisis, including electoral reform and a series of anti-corruption measures. As immediate measures, it called for the release of all peaceful demonstrators detained since Oct. 1, initiating a full investigation of cases of abduction and prosecuting and punishing those responsible for the excessive use of force.

Washington had issued an Official statement on the protest.

According to AP

"The United States is seriously concerned by continued attacks against protestors, civic activists, and the media, as well as restrictions on Internet access, in Iraq," said the statement from the press secretary. "Iraqis won't stand by as the Iranian regime drains their resources and uses armed groups and political allies to stop them from peacefully expressing their views. Despite being targeted with lethal violence and denied access to the Internet, the Iraqi people have made their voices heard, calling for elections and election reforms."
The U.S. called for "the Iraqi government to halt the violence against protesters and fulfill President (Barham) Salih's promise to pass electoral reform and hold early elections."

Security forces set up concrete barriers to block off Tahrir square and making more difficult for protesters to gather.

According to AFP

Iraqi protesters struggled to keep up their anti-government sit-ins Sunday following a deadly crackdown by security forces that Amnesty International warned could turn into a "bloodbath".

Outside of Baghdad, the protesters had more success with keeping up the demonstrations

According to Antiwar.com

Protests elsewhere continue with varying success. Gatherings were reported in Diwaniya, Hilla, and Kut. Students in Maysan and Muthanna provinces staged protests, as did students in Dhi Qar and Qadisiya.
A government radio station was shut down by protesters in Diwaniya.

Throughout the day according to Antiwar.com

At least four people were killed, and 129 people were wounded
At least 319 people have died since protests began at the start of October. More than 15,000 demonstrators have been wounded.

November 11th

An insincere statement about the use of forces was issued by an Iraqi official, contradicting Mahdi's  'new level of force' statement just day's earlier.

According to Reuters

Justice Minister Farooq Amin Othman acknowledged there had been “individual violations” by members of the law enforcement agencies but said they were being investigated.
“...We would like to express our deep regret for the number of people killed,” he told international diplomats gathered at what the U.N calls the Universal Periodic Review.
“Our constitution guarantees peaceful assembly and the objective of our authorities is to protect the protesters,” he said.
Other Iraqi officials said plans were under way to free detained protesters and for electoral reform, both of which were among a package of reforms urged by the United Nations.

Sistani meets with UN Mission Chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert

According to Reuters

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who only speaks on politics in times of crisis and wields enormous influence over public opinion in Shi’ite-majority Iraq, on Monday met Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the U.N. mission chief in the country.
Sistani welcomed reform recommendations presented by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
These include the release of all detained peaceful protesters, investigations into killings of protesters, declarations of assets by political leaders to address graft accusations, corruption trials, electoral reform and constitutional changes to make leaders more accountable within the next three months.

He also urged the protesters to continue to remain in the streets to peacefully demonstrate until real reforms steps are taking by the Iraq government.

Protests demand a complete overhaul of their political system in response to Washington's statement.

According to Aljazeera

But on Monday, protesters in Baghdad insisted that a snap poll was not the solution to the country's problems.
"If they agree to hold early elections, the same faces will return … They'll just be reshuffled," Thawrah al-Ezzawi told Al Jazeera from Baghdad's Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement in the Iraqi capital.
Al-Ezzawi said early elections "would not work" for the Iraqi people who are still waiting on "real change".
"It's like a game of chess," the 49-year old public employee, said, adding that the people would end up paying the price.
"The system needs to change completely, and the people in power need to be held accountable … They can't think that they can simply leave, that's not enough," she said. "Iraqi families are living under the poverty line in a country that has so much to offer."
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an independent analyst who focuses on Iraq, said an early vote will not lead to "meaningful change" so long as Iraqis are faced with the same choices of parties.
"What is needed is a new generation of politicians who think beyond exploiting for personal benefit the post-2003 order put in place by the US, and the Iraqi parties and politicians it worked with at the time," he said.

In response to the the statements coming out of Washington, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned the US not to take advantage of the situation.

According to Rudaw.net


“Enough of you interfering in our affairs. Iraq already has great [individuals] who can protect it and doesn’t need intervention from you or anyone else,” Sadr, who is head of the 2018 parliamentary election-winning Sayirun Alliance, said on Monday.

“Occupying America has proven again” that it interferes in the affairs of other countries, he added, but it is Iraqis who will settle the fate of “corrupt” officials the US “imposed” on Iraqis after it invaded the country in 2003.

Throughout the day according to Antiwar.com

At least 28 people were killed, and 173 were wounded in the latest violence and protests:

In Nasariya, four protesters were killed and 130 were wounded.

At least 34 people were wounded in Baghdad

November 12th

According to The New Arab

Iraqi protesters shut down state institutions on Tuesday as the United Nations stepped up pressure on the government to enact a raft of reforms in response to anti-government rallies.
Across the country's south, demonstrators shut down schools, government buildings and even state media offices.
In Amarah, crowds closed the local branch of Iraqi state television, accusing it of unfairly covering the demonstrations.
Schools closed in the towns of Hillah and Kut, where hundreds hit the streets, as well as in the protest hotspots of Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo  chimed in to condemn Iraq Government's use of force on the protesters.

According to The Hill

“Secretary Pompeo urged Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi to take immediate steps to address the protesters’ legitimate grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption,” Ortagus said, adding that Pompeo stressed that “peaceful public demonstrations are a fundamental element of all democracies.”

Throughout the day according to AntiWar.com

At least 29 people were killed, and four more were wounded:
Protest news:
In Nasariya, tear gas exposure killed two children who were patients at Habboubi Hospital. Demonstrators have blocked two bridges in the city.
Basra police chief, Lieutenant General Rashid Fuleih, reported that one security member was killed, and 300 more were wounded in the province, presumably since protests started in early October.

November 13th

Iraq Parliament to convene amid UN mediation efforts over crisis.

According to Aljazeera

The president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region has headed to Baghdad for discussions with top officials, just hours before Parliament was due to convene to discuss demands after weeks of anti-establishment protests.
After meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Nechirvan Barzani was expected to hold talks with President Barham Salih and Speaker Mohammed Halbussi, who will chair the special legislative session on Wednesday afternoon.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the head of the United Nations mission in Iraq (UNAMI), was also scheduled to attend the meeting at Parliament.

Protesters begin gathering again after the weekend of violent crack downs.

According to Stamford Advocate

Iraqi protesters said Wednesday that an intensifying crackdown by authorities has been instilling fear and reducing turnout, but said they were remaining defiant and have called for people to return to the street in large numbers later this week.
Protesters in Tahrir Square appeared to be more organized on Wednesday, having set up a network of tents offering food and medical services.

In Bashar according to AFP

Some 800 students and teachers returned to camp outside the provincial headquarters after they had been cleared out over the weekend by riot police

Throughout the day according to Antiwar.com

At least four people were killed, and 55 more were wounded:
Protest news:
Despite a recent crackdown, demonstrations continue across southern Iraq and in Baghdad. In Karbala, security personnel were seen joining the protesters.
In Baghdad, 55 security personnel were wounded in clashes at Khulani Square and Senak Bridge.

One thing I want to highlight from the Antiwar excerpt above is

security personnel were seen joining the protesters.

November 14th

Reports of Security Forces targeting medics tending protesters being to circulate.

According to Radaw.net

“Iraqi security forces have attacked medical workers for treating protesters since protests began on October 25, 2019, firing on medical workers, tents, and ambulances with tear gas and live ammunition,”  the Human Right Watch (HRW) report read. “The attacks have left at least one medic dead.”
A doctor from Baghdad told HRW that he has seen security forces in  Tahrir Square and on three Baghdad bridges fire tear gas cartridges at  ambulances "at least five times since October 25.”

Medics are also facing detention on contentious grounds, according to the report.

“Some Federal Police fired live bullets at their tent, me and other medics fled, with security forces shooting at us as we ran,” another medic told the New York-based organization.
“The Federal Police chased them, detaining two medics who he said remain in detention, but he did not know if they have been charged with a crime," the report added.

Political figures have been the targeted. An Interior Ministry Official was Kidnapped in Baghdad. Major General Yasir Abdul Jabbar was taken from his car in Baghdad.

According to Basnews.com

A group of unidentified armed men kidnapped a senior official of Iraq’s Interior Ministry in broad daylight in central Baghdad.
CCTV footages show several vehicles stopping the personal car of Major General Yasir Abdul Jabbar in Jadiriyah district of Baghdad, forcibly taking him with them.

And according to Antiwar.com

The home of an official in Gharraf, near Nasariya was set on fire.

On a much lighter note, Protesters celebrated the Iraqi Soccer win over Iran in the World Cup qualifying game.

According to AP

Crowds watched the game Thursday on a large screen in Baghdad’s main Tahrir Square, the epicenter of demonstrations that have called for the overturning of Iraq’s sectarian system and Iranian political influence. Some carried Iraqi flags and chanted “Iran, out!”

Thoughout the day according to AntiWar.com

At least nine people were killed, and 63 more were wounded

The number of demonstrators may have been thinned out in fear of being killed or arrested but it is looking this may be only temporary.  With all eyes on Iraq and support from the UN and Washington, the protesters may begin showing out in larger numbers in the week ahead.  

There are a few things I would like to highlight.

First is the UN roadmap being more inline with the protesters demands and approved by Ali Sistani.  The second is the Iran reforms are supported only by the Iraqi Government and is what lead to the crackdown.  This exemplifies one of the major factors that is driving these protest, foreign interference and no representation of the Iraqi people in parliament.  

Also foreign interference is not only Iran, but the US as well as Sadr had warned.

I will be continuing to put together these weekly reports on the Iraq Protest so please check back next week of November 15-21.  Take care.

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