2012–13 Iraqi protests
|2012–13 Iraqi protests|
|Date||21 December 2012 – present
(11 months and 1 week)
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2012–13 Iraqi protests started on 21 December 2012 following a raid on the home of Sunni Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi and the arrest of 10 of his bodyguards. Beginning in Fallujah, the protests have since spread throughout Sunni Arab parts of Iraq, and have even gained support from non-Sunni Iraqi politicians, such as Muqtada al-Sadr. Pro-Maliki protests have also taken place throughout southern Iraq, where there is a Shia Arab majority. In April 2013, sectarian violence escalated after the 2013 Hawija clashes.
- 1 Background
- 2 Timeline
- 2.1 December
- 2.2 January
- 2.3 February
- 2.4 March
- 2.5 April
- 2.6 May
- 2.7 June
- 2.8 July
- 2.9 August
- 3 Responses
- 4 References
Iraqi Sunnis traditionally held power in Iraq, but the Sunni-dominated Ba'ath party was overthrown by the United States Armed Forces during the 2003 invasion, and Shia groups gained power. The majority of Iraqis are Shiites.
Unlike the protests in 2011, which revolved around issues of corruption and national security, the new protests have mainly been driven by Sunni Arabs who feel marginalized in post-Saddam Iraq, and who claim that anti-Terrorism laws are abused and used to arrest and harass Sunnis. The growth of the protests however has led the initial demands to be expanded, and one of the main requests of the protesters is the resignation of Prime Minister Maliki. Other issues now often cited are the abuse of De-Baathification laws and unfair confiscation of property of former Baathists, and Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs.
Following the arrest several thousand protesters took to the streets of Fallujah following Friday prayers to condemn the arrests. The protesters blocked a highway in Fallujah and demanded Prime Minister Maliki's resignation, waving banners reading: “Resistance is still in our veins.” December 23 also saw protesters begin the barricading of the main highway at Ramadi, thereby disrupting a key Iraqi trade route to Jordan and Syria. The protests also spread from Anbar province to other Sunni parts of Iraq including Mosul, Samarra Tikrit, and the Adhimiya district of Baghdad. As the protests in Anbar grew, delegations were sent to support to the protests from Baghdad and Salah al-din, with smaller delegations coming from the southern Iraqi provinces of Maysan and Basra. In order to try and prevent the further spread of the protests, the Iraqi army established a cordon in Ninewa on December 27.
December 28 "Friday of Honour"
December 28 saw the protests increase in size, with tens of thousands taking part in the "Friday of Honour" protests against perceived government sectarianism.
December 29–January 4
The second week of protests saw the protests spread to Saladin and Diyala provinces for the first time. During the week protests took place in Mosul, Kirkuk, Baiji, Tikrit, al-Daur, Ishaqi, Samarra, Jalawla, Dhuluiyah, Baquba, Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad, Albu Ajil, and Nasiriyah. The sit-in at Ramadi, blocking the highway, continued, and was visited from Amman by Sunni Iraqi Cleric Abdul Malik al-Saadi on the 28th December. Tribal delegations traveled to Ramadi from Kirkuk, Karballa, and Muthanna, to support the protests. January 4 saw the Baghdad Operations Command ordering the 6th Division to secure the Adhamiyah bridge to prevent sympathetic demonstrators from West Baghdad joining the anti-government demonstrations in the Adhamiyah district of East Baghdad. There were also reports of Iraqi Army units preventing delegations and media personnel from visiting Anbar from Baghdad.
On Sunday 30 December Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni and critic of Maliki, travelled to Ramadi to attempt to address the protesters. Mutlaq's convoy was pelted with bottles and stones, and protesters chanted for him to leave, with some being angry that Mutlaq had taken a week to support the protesters, and believed that he had come to undermine the protests. Bodyguards for Mutlaq wounded two people when they fired warning shots. Mutlaq's office described the incident as an attempted assassination by rogue elements.
The week of January 5 saw continuing anti-government protests in Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, al-Daur, Samarra, Dhuluiyah, Ramadi, Fallujah, Albu Ajil, and the Baghdad districts of Adhimiyah and Ghazaliyah. The week also saw the emergence of pro-government protests, taking place in Baghdad, along with the southern Shiite cities of Karbala, Kut, Najaf, Diwaniyah, Samawa, and Basra. The week also witnessed renewed government efforts to contain and deter protests, mostly through heightened security and deployments of military units.
Since the beginning of the protests, the Ninewa Operations Command of the Iraqi Army had been attempting to close Ahrar square, which was the site of the majority of anti-government protests in Mosul. Clashes between protesters and army units erupted on January 7 when army vehicles ran over several protesters, wounding 4, in an attempt to disperse the protester in the square. On January 8 four more protesters were wounded when Iraqi military units opened fire in the square. The clashes led to security for eastern Mosul being taken from the military and given to the Iraqi Federal Police 3rd Division.
The Baghdad Operations Command also implemented a cordon in Al Tarmia, a town north of Baghdad, on January 7 in order to prevent protesters from blocking either highway leading north from Baghdad. The Baghdad to Mosul highway was eventually closed near Taji on January 11 by Iraqi army units. The Baghdad Operations Command deployed units on the eastern edge of Fallujah on January 9. Security within the Adhamiya district of Baghdad was also tightened on January 11 in an effort to deter protests. The 11th Iraqi Army Division was deployed north of Tikrit by the Tigris Operations Command on January 11 to prevent protests in Hawija.
In the West of Iraq units from the 29th Mechanised Brigade of the 7th Army Division closed the Jordan-Iraqi border crossing at Trebil due to unspecified security concerns.
Thousands of pro-Maliki demonstrators took to the streets in at least 5 provinces on Tuesday 8 January to voice support for Maliki and oppose an attempts to change the de-Baathification laws. Protesters also voiced opposition to any return of the Baath party or the dividing of Iraq along sectarian or ethnic lines. Protests took place in Basra, Diwaniyah, Karbala, Al-Muthana and Babil provinces.
January 25 "No Retreat Friday"
On January 25 several protests were held across Anbar Province, with other protests also appearing in Samarra, Baqubah, Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, and Hawijah, as part of "No Retreat Friday." The protests turned deadly in Fallujah, as soldiers opened fire on a crowd of rock-throwing demonstrators, killing 7 and injuring more than 70 others. Three soldiers were later shot to death in retaliation for the incident, and clashes erupted in Askari, on the eastern outskirts of Fallujah. Security forces were placed on high alert as a curfew and vehicle ban were brought into effect. In a statement, Maliki urged both sides to show restraint and blamed the incident on unruly protesters. He also warned that it could lead to a "rise in tension that al-Qaida and terrorist groups are trying to take advantage of".
Thousands of people attended the funerals of the slain protesters on January 26, some carrying Saddam-era Iraqi flags. The government responded to the shooting by pulling out most Army forces from the city and replacing them with federal police. In a statement read at Fallujah's main square, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha announced that the tribal leaders had given the government one week to bring the perpetrators of the shooting to justice. If this demand is not met, the Sheikh, who is the chairman of the Anbar Salvation Council, promised to "launch jihad against army units and posts in Anbar".
February 22 "'Iraq or Maliki"
On 22 February thousands of protesters took to the streets of Ramadi, Baghdad, Mosul, and Fallujah following Friday prayers in order to continue the demonstrations against the Iraqi government, calling for Maliki to step down.
The day also saw seven members of a Sahwa militia killed in Tuz Khormato by armed men wearing military uniforms. The assailants asked a local militia leader to accompany them to a checkpoint manned by a Sahwa militia, at which point the uniformed group overpowered the leader and members of the Sahwa militia before executing them.
On 8 March police fired on Sunni demonstrators in Mosul, killing 1 protester and injuring 5 others. Police claimed that they fired into the air to disperse stone throwing protesters. In response to the shooting the Minister of Agriculture, Izz al-Din al-Dawla, hosted a televised news conference where he announced his resignation from his cabinet post to protest the killings. Dawla therefore became the second minister of resign as part of the protests, after Rafi al-Issawi.
On 10 March Bunyan Sabar al-Obeidi, an anti-government protest organiser and spokesman for the Sunni protests in Kirkuk, was shot and killed whilst driving his car in Kirkuk in a drive-by shooting by unknown gunmen. Obeidi had escaped an assassination attempt the previous week.
Sunni uprising and backlash
Following four months of protests, on Friday 19 April, an Iraqi officer was killed in clashes between security forces and protesters in Hawija, a town west of Kirkuk. Following the refusal of residents to hand over suspected perpetrators the security forces sought; Hawija was then put under siege.
On the morning of 23 April, a security forces operation against the Naqshbandiya Army in Hawija resulted in over 56 deaths and dozens of other protesters injured. The clashes erupted after security forces entered the area that was being used as a sit-in by Sunni protesters against the government. The Ministry of Defence issued a statement that read 20 armed men were killed, as well as three army personnel - one officer and two soldiers; it also mentioned that the armed men used the protesters as cover and that the army has arrested 75 fighters and seized 40 rifles and some grenades. Another officer said that 34 Kalashnikov assault rifles and four PKM machineguns were also found. Sheikh Abdullah Sami al-Asi, a Sunni provincial official, said the violence resulted from the security forces entering the area and trying to make arrests. United Nations spokeswoman in Iraq, Eliana Nabaa, confirmed there were casualties. There was also retaliatory violence in the surrounding Sunni-majority region where other gunmen attacked police checkpoints in Riyadh and Rashad until a military counterattack a few hours later. On the same day, at least 21 others were killed as they left Sunni mosques in Baghdad and Diyala. Following the raid, Sunni tribal leaders called for a revolt.
The next day revenge attacks continued against the police action. The north of the country featured more violence between security forces and protesters. In Suleiman Bek, north of Baghdad, gunmen killed five soldiers and wounded five of their colleagues, while gunmen attacked a Sahwa militia checkpoint in Khales and killed four of the militiamen and wounding another person. Total deaths over the two days are believed to be over 100. The Iraqi government also set up a commission to investigate the previous day's incidents, that is to be led by Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. On 25 April, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned of a sectarian war and blamed "remnants of Baath Party for violence."
Following the clashes in Suleiman Bek the Iraqi Army withdrew from the town, with an officer claiming the move was to allow for civilians to leave the town before the army began a counter-offensive. However, clashes and protests continued across the country with renewed protests by Sunni Arabs calling for the prime minister's resignation and an end to alleged discrimination against them. Violence also continued with the death toll reaching 200 after five days. The violence also included attacks on Sunni mosques. Sunni Arabs formed the Army of Pride and Dignity as the sectarian clashes escalated.
On 27 April, the Iraqi government banned 10 satellite channels, including Al Jazeera and Iraq's Al Sharqiya. Mujahid Abu al-Hail of the Communications and Media Commission said: "We took a decision to suspend the licence of some satellite channels that adopted language encouraging violence and sectarianism. It means stopping their work in Iraq and their activities, so they cannot cover events in Iraq or move around." Two days later, five car bombs blew up in Shia-majority areas. In Amara town in Missan province killing 15 people and wounding 45 others; in Diywaniya a bomb exploded near a restaurant killing three people and wounding 25 others; while in Karbala a car bomb explosion killed three civilians and wounded 12 others; and another car bomb exploded in the Shia-majority neighbourhood of the Sunni-majority town of Mahmoudiya killing three people and wounding 15 others. The same day, the Iraqiya's Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi called for the resignation of the government to be replaced by a smaller cabinet of independents, who would not compete in the next election, and for the electoral commission to prepare for an early national election with parliament to be dissolved. On 1 May, more attacks took place against a Sunni group of fighters backed by the government and in a Shia area.
On 17 May, at least 72 deaths were reported in several cities, including the capital, on Sunni targets. Attacks continued the next day, amid warning of a civil war after four days of violence resulted in over 140 deaths. On 20 May, bombs in Baghdad and Basra targeting Shias resulted in at least 68 deaths. It also hit Sunni areas such as Samarra. Following a previous week attack on alcohol shops that killed 12 people, the mixed Sunni-Shia area of Zayhouna in Baghdad was attacked again at a brother that resulted in the deaths of seven women and five men. On 27 May, over 50 deaths were reported in Shia areas of Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki later vowed to hunt down the outlaws. On 31 May, following Friday prayers, a bomb exploded outside Baghdad's Sunni Omar mosque killing four people and wounding 11 other worshippers. The UN also noted the death toll for the month of May being the highest in five years with Al Jazeera attributing it to increased sectarianism. Additionally, the government banned cars with common temporary licence plates to try and avoid car bombings. .
|This section requires expansion. (August 2013)|
|This section requires expansion. (August 2013)|
|This section requires expansion. (August 2013)|
The Iraqi government has taken numerous steps in an effort to appease the protesters. On 29 January 2013 the Iraqi government announced that it would raise the salaries of Sahwa militia members by two-thirds, due to higher wages for Sahwa militia members, along with their incorporation into the security services and civil service being one of the demands of the protest movement. In February 2013 Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani's announced that 3,000 prisoners had been released over the past month and that all female prisoners had been transferred to prisons in their home provinces. Shahristani had previously publicly apologised in January 2013 for holding detainees without charge.
- Sadrist Movement – On January 1, 2013, Shiite cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr came out in favour of the protests and blamed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the unrest in Iraq. In a warning to Maliki, Sadr stated: "The Iraqi spring is coming." Sadr even expressed his willingness to travel to Anbar to join in the protests, but stated that his support was conditional on the protests remaining peaceful and did not seek to promote sectarian divisions. Sadr later made a rare television appearance where he prayed alongside Sunni clerics in a landmark Sunni mosque in Baghdad. Sadr however has been criticised due to his previous support for militias and engagement in violence against Sunni's during the Iraq war.
- Ba'ath Party – On January 5, 2013, a 53-minute video was released on Youtube in which Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri, Secretary of the Iraqi Regional Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, stated his support for and encouraged the protests, saying that "the people of Iraq and all its nationalist and Islamic forces support you until the realization of your just demands for the fall of the Safavid-Persian alliance".
- Saudi Arabia – Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned that the Iraqi government needed to address the issue of sectarian extremism in order to restore peace, on January 5 at a press conference in Riyadh.
- "Iraq protesters win first demand: Release of 3,000 prisoners". Middle East Online. 3 February 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- "Iraq's Sunnis Form Tribal Army, As Sectarian Violence Builds". NPR. 27 April 2013.
- "Iraq: Maliki Demands That Protesters Stand Down". The New York Times. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "Iraqi army pulls out from Falluja after deadly clashes with protesters". Al Arabiya. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- Patrick Markey, Raheem Salman (22 December 2012). "Protests erupt after Iraqi minister’s staff detained". The Daily Star. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- "Iraq mass protests mount pressure on Maliki". Al Jazeera. 28 December 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- Kamal Naama (30 December 2012). "Sunni protesters attack Iraq official's convoy, guards wound two". Reuters. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- "2 Wounded as Iraq Protesters Are Dispersed by Security Force". The New York Times. 30 December 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- Thousands protest in Shiite provinces in southern Iraq
- "Friday demonstrations in Iraq result in deaths". Al-Shorfa. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- (Tampa Bay News)
- Iraqi Troops Fire on Protesters; 14 Killed, 72 Wounded Across Country (Antiwar.com)
- Thousands of Iraqi Sunnis mourn protesters shot dead by troops (South China Morning Post)
- Iraq Sunnis threaten army attacks after protest deaths (BBC)
- "Protests in Iraq continue amid new killings". Al Jazeera. 22 February 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- "Gunmen Kill Protest Organizer in Iraq". ABC News. 10 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Iraq agriculture minister quits over Sunni protest death
- "Iraqi Sunni protest clashes in Hawija leave many dead". BBC News. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- "Deadly clashes break out in northern Iraq". Al Jazeera. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- Matt Bradley & Ali A. Nabhan (23 April 2013). "Iraq Raids Protesters' Camp". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "Dozens killed in wave of Iraq violence". Al Jazeera. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- "Scores killed in two days of Iraq clashes". Al Jazeera. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- "Iraqi 'Gunmen' storm small Sunni town north of Baghdad". BBC News. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- "Iraqi PM warns against 'sectarian war'". Al Jazeera. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- "Iraq raises Sahwa militia pay to appease protesters". The Daily Star. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- "Iraq’s Sadr Encourages Antigovernment Demonstrations". The New York Times. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- Eli Sugarman and Omar Al-Nidawi (11 February 2013). "Back in Black". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
- "Nephew of Izzat al-Douri arrested". National Iraq News Agency (NINA).
- "Izzat al-Duri: It’s time to overthrow Iraq ‘Safavid’ government". Middle East Online.
- "Sectarianism will prolong instability in Iraq: Saudi Arabia". Reuters.