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2019 Iraqi protests

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2019 Iraqi protests
Part of 2018–19 Arab protests
ساحة-التجرير.png
Liberation Square, Baghdad on 25 October 2019
Date1 October 2019 (2019-10-01)present
(1 month, 2 weeks and 5 days)
Location
Caused by
MethodsDemonstrations, sit-ins, riots, civil disobedience, online activism
StatusOngoing
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Iraq Muqtada al-Sadr (Leader of Sadrist Movement)[6][7]

Iraq Ali al-Sistani
(Grand Ayatollah of Iraq)
[13][14]
United States Donald Trump (President of the United States)[8][8]


Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister of Israel)[10][11]
Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi
(Prime Minister of Iraq)

Iraq Barham Salih
(President of Iraq)
Iraq Mohammed Al-Halbousi
(Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament)
Iraq Falih Al-Fayyadh
(Advisor of the National Security Council)
Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis
(Deputy Chairman of the PMF)
Abu Zainab Al-Lami[15]
(Security Director of the PMF)
Hadi Al-Amiri
(Commander of the Badr Organization)
Qais Al-Khazali
(Commander of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq)
Iran Ayatollah Khamenei
(Supreme Leader of Iran)
Iran Hossein Salami
(Commander in Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)

Iran Qasem Soleimani[12]
(Commander of the Quds Force)
Casualties
Death(s)+319
InjuriesNearly 15,000
Casualties are correct as of 10 November 2019 (per IHCHR)[16]

The 2019 Iraqi protests, also nicknamed the October Revolution,[17] and 2019 Iraqi Intifada, are an ongoing series of protests that consisted of demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and civil disobedience. They started on 1 October 2019, a date which was set by civil activists on social media, spreading over the central and southern provinces of Iraq, to protest 16 years of corruption, unemployment and inefficient public services, before they escalated into calls to overthrow the administration and stop Iranian intervention in Iraq. The Iraqi government was accused of using bullets, snipers, hot water and tear gas against protesters.[18] The protests stopped on 8 October and resumed on 24 October. According to the BBC, they call for the end of the political system which has existed since the US-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein.[19][20] In fact it is the largest unrest since his regime ended.[21]

Background

In 2011, protests broke out in various provinces in Iraq with the demands of ending corruption and nepotism, employment, raising wages and improving public services such as electricity, transportation, health care, education and municipal services.[22][23][24] The protestors faced suppression, police brutality and arrests.[25] The demands in the six Sunni-dominant provinces escalated during the 2012–13 Iraqi protests after Nouri Al-Maliki's acts of persecution against Sunni political figures.[26][27] This led to the protests calling to overthrow the sectarian regime, redraft the constitution and march into Baghdad to occupy the Green Zone.[27] These protests were faced with more suppression, leading into clashes between security forces and local tribesmen who had alleged support from Ba'ath Party loyalists.[28][29] After reports of the Sunni factions, which were part of the Iraqi insurgency against the American occupation, unifying their powers and taking control over Al Anbar Governorate, the government launched the 2013 Anbar campaign.[30] By July 2014, these factions which merged with ISIL had occupied most of Al-Anbar, Ninawa, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk and Diyala which started the Iraqi Civil War. The U.S. Secretary of State pledged "intense" support to the Iraqi government while imploring the Government to rise above "sectarian motivations" but according to senior officials in the Department of Defense the U.S. was refraining from giving weapons to the Iraqi military "because of lack of confidence in Iraqi troops", while veteran U.S. journalists familiar with the situation claimed that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "is not the answer and should step down".[31][32]

Fueled by the lack of progress of Haider al-Abadi's government and state corruption, leader of the Sadrist Movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, called for a sit-in within the Green Zone in Baghdad to force the government to find serious solutions for corruption.[33] On 30 April 2016, thousands of Al-Sadr's followers breached the barricades of the Green Zone and stormed into governmental buildings, including the Iraqi parliament,[34] chasing representatives out of the Green Zone before retreating the day after by the call of Al-Sadr.[35] Another demonstration broke out in Basra and nearby cities in July 2018 due to deteriorating public utilities, water contamination and lack of electricity and continued for a few months.[36][37] Protestors burned down a number of government buildings and parties' headquarters, blocked numerous main streets, tore and burned pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei and even occupied the Al-Najaf and Basra International Airport.[38][39] They were faced with suppression from security forces and Popular Mobilization Forces, including Kata'ib Hezbollah, Badr Organization and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, causing the death of at least 16 protestors.[40][41][39]

Remembering the rise of ISIS during the protests in 2012[42] these ones avoided sectarian rhetoric.[43] Although a recent poll showed only 6% of Iraqis viewed the United States more favorably than Iran, Americans did not seem to be the focus of the anger.[42]

Prelude

While the start date of the October 2019 protests was set months before their start, the following events took place only days before the protests and are considered the events that triggered the people's rage, having a major impact on the protestors' demands and methods. They specifically demanded more merits recognition instead of current focus on ethnic and religious quotas of government appointments.[19]

Holders of higher degrees demonstrations

On 25 September 2019, a group of holders of higher degrees organized a protest in front of the Prime Minister's office in Baghdad, demanding their employment.[44] The protest was faced with major suppression from security forces as armoured vehicles separated the demonstrators using hot water and police forces conducted random arrests among them which led to cases of fainting and injuries among the demonstrators.[45] This incident was faced with country-wide anger because of the forceful methods that were used by the government towards intellectual demonstrators, along with the violence that was used against female protestors.[45][46] Reactions included the Ministry of Interior forming a committee to investigate the incident and demonstrators organizing solidarity protests in many provinces to condemn these methods.[45][47] The holders of higher degrees resumed their protests for three days after the incident, spreading over many southern provinces.[48][49]

Dismissal of Abdel-Wahab Al-Saedi

On 27 September 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi issued a decision to transfer the commander of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force, Lieutenant General Abdel-Wahab Al-Saedi, from the ICTF to the Ministry of Defence, a decision that was viewed by many and by Al-Saedi himself as a demotion and an act of disrespect after being one of the major leaders of the liberation of Mosul from ISIL's occupation.[50] Al-Saedi stated that the decision is an insult to his military rank and that he would rather go to jail than execute this decision.[50][51] This decision caused political figures, including former prime minister Haider Al-Abadi and many representatives, to criticize Abdul-Mahdi and call for him to back down from his decisions.[52][53] After the decision was made, social media was flooded with Al-Saedi's photos and achievements, calling for Abdul-Mahdi to back down from this injustice and accusing Iran of ordering the Iraqi government to replace every "national hero" in the army with Iranian loyalists.[54][55] In response to this backlash, Abdul-Mahdi stated that he stands by his decision and that it's a normal routine decision with no political motivations.[56] Furthermore, after calls for the unveiling of a statue of Al-Saedi in Mosul that was made to immortalize the commander's efforts in the city's liberation, security forces surrounded the statue, prohibiting its unveiling, before it was finally removed by them.[57][58] On 30 September 2019, Al-Saedi announced that he executed Abdul-Mahdi's orders and joined the ministry of defence as "a loyal soldier to serve my country and my beloved people."[59]

Timeline

Initial protests: 1–8 October

Protesters in Baghdad on 1 October

1 October: Protests erupted in Baghdad in Liberation Square over high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption. These protests spread to the southern provinces. The authorities imposed an internet blackout and shut down 75% of the country's internet access. Many protesters were killed and injured on the first day.[60] Protesters demanded the resignation of Adil Abdul-Mahdi and prepare for early elections.[61] The protesters also began demonstrating against Iranian influence, and against the leader of Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani.[62] The Iraqi prime minister declared a curfew until further notice.[63]

2 October: Two activists, Hussain Almadani and his wife, Sarah, were killed by unknown forces in their house in Basra.[64]

3 October: According to Amnesty International, 18 civilians and one police officer were killed and hundreds were injured after three days of protesting.[65]

4 October: In Nasiriyah, many headquarters of political parties were burned down.[66]

5 October: Unknown forces raided many TV channels such as Al Arabiya, Dijlah TV, NRT and Al Rasheed TV for airing the protests. The forces destroyed these channels' properties.[67]

7 October: Dozens of protesters were killed and hundreds were injured in Sadr City.[68]

8 October: Protests largely ceased due to Arba'een,[69] a Shia religious holiday which occurred on October 19th.

Protests resume: 24–30 October

24 October: Thousands of protesters began to congregate at Liberation Square in Baghdad, protesting against the government and against the Iranian influence. Nearly 50 protesters were killed and injured after attempting to enter the Green Zone.[70]

25 October: Protesting in Maysan Governorate began to turn into riots between Peace Companies led by Muqtada al-Sadr on one side and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and Badr Organization on another.[71] Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq member Wisam Alyawi and his brother, both PMU commanders for the Maysan Governorate, were lynched by angry protesters who dragged them out of an ambulance and beat them to death. Qais Khazali, chief of all Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, announced that 9 PMU members had been killed in the recent protests, blamed Israel for their deaths, and stated he would take revenge "four times over."[72] Protesters burned down and destroyed many offices of political parties in the city of Samawah.[73] Protesters in Karbala chanted against Iran, tearing up Ali Khamenei's pictures. They also attacked the Governorate Council building.[74] They also burnt the Iranian consulate.[75] In Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate, protesters burned down the Governorate Council building. Administrative authorities declared a curfew in the province.[76] In the city of Al Kūt, protesters attacked many of the political parties' offices and also attacked the house of former Minister of Interior, Qasim al-Araji.[77]

26 October: 7 protesters were killed and 28 wounded after conflicts between Badr Organization and protesters in city of Hillah in Babil Governorate.[78]

28 October: A top security authority for Baghdad declared an open-ended curfew on the capital, four days after the renewed protests against government killed more than 70 protesters.[79] In Karbala, 14-30 people were killed in protests. Government officials denied any deaths occurred.[75]

30 October: Iranian military officer Qasem Soleimani met with Hadi al-Amiri, one of Abdul-Mahdi's political opponents, and asked him to support Abdul-Mahdi.[80]

Second week: 31 October–6 November

31 October: President Barham Salih said in a televised address that the Prime Minister had agreed to resign, "on the condition that a successor is agreed to replace him."[81]

2 November: Protesters blocked Iraq's main port Umm Qasr. Oil exports from offshore platforms were not affected, but imports of staple food were. Iraq is heavily dependent on food import.[82]

3 November: Protestors stormed the Iranian consulate in Karbala, where they set fires around the building and replaced the Iranian flag with an Iraqi one.[83]

4 November: An internet blockage observatory, NetBlocks highlighted that the internet access in Baghdad and five other regions in Iraq were cut off on 4 November, in wake of the continued rage in the country.[84] Iraqi authorities had taken a similar move in October, where social media and messaging remained highly restricted in several part of the country.[85]

Third week: 7–13 November

8 November: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shia cleric, called on the government to meet the demands of the protesters, and urged the security forces to avoid the use of violence.[86]

10 November: The Iraqi Parliamentary Human Rights Committee reported that at least 319 people had been killed during the protests. According to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq, an additional 15,000 were injured.[87]

13 November: The Iraqi Parliament held a special session to discuss the crisis. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq addressed the session to present her plan to resolve the crisis, which involves election reform and anti-corruption measures.[88]

Fourth week

14 November: Four people were killed and 62 injured in Baghdad in clashes between security forces and protesters.[89]

16 November: At least four protesters were killed and nearly 20 were injured as a car bomb attack took place at the Tahrir Square in Baghdad. No group claimed responsibility of the first explosion in the ongoing anti-government protests.[90]

See also

References

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