Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Iraqi government continues to attack its own people

Protests continued in Iraq today and the government continued killing protesters. 

63 demonstrators were killed in 36 hours of according to Iraqi Human Rights Commission. Baghdad:10, Maysan:14, Dhi Qar:15, Basra:7, Diwaniya:12, Babil:4, Muthanna:1 If this continues, will break the number of early protests this month which killed 150 in five days

  1. TokTok which is usually used as a taxi by low income and poor youth in Iraq has become the symbol for the Iraqi protests. The TokTok owners volunteered for free to become ambulances for the thousands of injured protesters and also food/water delivery, for peace?

  1. A tuk-tuk drives away from tear gas fired by Iraqi security forces during a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services, in Baghdad, Iraq

US President Donald Trump is supposed to make a big announcement on live TV Sunday morning but no one thinks for a moment anything to do with Iraq.  Apparently, the American taxpayer is supposed to feel blessed and honored to pour their hard earned money into the hands of a government that kills its own citizens when the citizens take to the street to protest corruption.

US troops and US money needs to leave Iraq.  It is used to maintain a corrupt regime.  And yet there is silence in the media and everyone looks the other way as Anderson Cooper wastes a public debate by asking about his bestie Ellen DeGeneres instead of asking people who want to become president about the ongoing protests in Iraq and how the Iraqi government is responsible for the deaths of so many protesters this month.

At least 63 people have died as protests intensify in Iraq, with security forces using tear gas and live bullets to repel demonstrators Saturday, a member of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq told CNN.
Ali Akram al-Bayati said three people were shot dead in Al Nasiriya, and another three people died from injuries in Baghdad after they were hit in the head by tear gas canisters fired by security forces.

More than 2,592 people have been injured since protests flared again Friday, over unemployment, government corruption, and a lack of basic services.  

Street protests continue to rock Lebanon and Iraq. In both countries, the discredited political establishment is assailed by demonstrators from all sects and regions.

Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Joseph Krauss and Zeina Karam (AP) note of the Iraq protests and the protests in Lebanon:

The protests are directed at a postwar political system and a class of elite leaders that have kept both countries from relapsing into civil war but achieved little else. The most common rallying cry from the protesters in Iraq and Lebanon is “Thieves! Thieves!” — a reference to officials they accuse of stealing their money and amassing wealth for decades.
The leaderless uprisings are unprecedented in uniting people against political leaders from their own religious communities. But the revolutionary change they are calling for would dismantle power-sharing governments that have largely contained sectarian animosities and force out leaders who are close to Iran and its heavily armed local allies.

Natasha Ghoneim (AL JAZEERA) reports, "People here [Baghdad] are furious. Some are trying to storm barricades leading to the Green Zone, where government offices and the parliament building are located.  They want the government to go. Security forces are using lots of tear gas and stun grenades." Azhar al-Rubaie (MIDDLE EAST EYE) observes, "One if five Iraqis lives below the poverty line, World Bank figures show, and youth unemployment is at 25 percent.  The rates are staggering for OPEC's second-biggest oil producer, which Transparency International ranks as the 12th most corrupt state in the world."  CBS and AP note 60-year-old widow Um Layth who participated in the Baghdad protest but asked her children not to "because she feared for their safety."  The outlets quote her stating, "I am not afraid if I die, but I want a better future for my children.  If these parties and this government stay, they will have no future."  Yes, women participated.   Much of Friday's coverage in the western media attempted to act as if this was not the case.  RUDAW reports the reality and runs photos:

Anti-government protests resumed in Baghdad on Friday, with many women also taking to the streets of the Iraqi capital. Photographer Ziyad Matti captured  powerful moments amid the protests that turned violent as the day passed.
Iraqi women have always been part of the protests in Iraq. However,  women in Iraq face many restrictions, including religious,  cultural and tribal obstacles which leave them unable to fully participate in civic life.
Although Iraqi women theoretically share equal civil rights with men under the Iraqi constitution, religious conservatism continues to permeate all areas of public life, in opposition to the socially liberal values found among sections of the urban youth.

Men, women and even children from all walks of life marched to ’s Tahrir square once again, despite a deadly crackdown on protests, writes Nabil Mafrachi.

Human Rights Watch issued an alert today:

(Erbil) – Iraqi security forces fired tear gas canisters into crowds, killing at least eight protesters, during demonstrations in Baghdad on October 25, 2019. Although forces in Baghdad refrained from using live rounds, at demonstrations in southern cities, protesters attempted to burn down Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashad or PMF) office buildings, leading forces inside to open fire and kill protesters. In Basra, a police vehicle drove into a crowd of protesters, injuring some.
“Even facing violent attacks by protesters, security forces are required to limit their response strictly to what is proportionate and necessary to maintain order,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “What we’ve now seen time and again are Iraqi security forces resorting to unnecessary force, even against nonviolent protesters.”

Protests started in Baghdad and Shia-majority governorates in southern Iraq on October 1, with protesters demanding improved services and more action to curb corruption. Between October 1 and 9, Human Rights Watch documented how security forces used excessive lethal force in confronting rock-throwing protesters, killing 149 and injuring 5,494. Security forces also shot at protesters as they dispersed and sprayed them with scalding water.
Following public outrage at the high death toll, Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi on October 22 approved the recommendations of an investigation into the deaths. These included firing senior security officials and investigating senior officials. The investigation found that 70 percent of those killed had died from bullet wounds to the head or chest. It said the authorities should also refer commanders implicated in abuses to the judiciary.
An Interior Ministry spokesman assured the public on October 24 the extreme violence would not be repeated: “The responsibility of the security forces is to secure demonstrations, maintain civil peace, protect citizens' interests and ensure the flow of movement in Baghdad and cities… Everyone is keen on peace and stability and overcoming the mistakes that have taken place in previous demonstrations. We therefore call upon our citizens to practice their normal activities.”
On October 25, protests resumed in Baghdad and southern governorates and are continuing. According to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq, 30 protesters were killed and 2,312 were wounded that day, but the death toll mounted to at least 63 by October 26. The Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq said protesters burned and damaged at least 50 government buildings and political party offices across different southern cities. It also said that two journalists were injured. According to NAS News, the Communication and Media Commission ordered a local TV station, Dijlah, off the air because of its protest coverage for the second time this month.

“The government’s misleading assurances that the public wouldn’t again face terrible violence probably encouraged some to believe they would be safe to demonstrate peacefully,” Whitson said.
An international journalist  who attended the Baghdad protest on October 25 said he did not see any protesters resorting to violence. He said he saw security forces in black uniforms, who said they were anti-riot police or security forces that protect access to Baghdad’s International Zone (IZ or Green Zone), continuously firing tear gas canisters from 10 a.m. till he left at 4:30 p.m. He said they sometimes fired directly at protesters in a seeming attempt to stop them from breaching the zone. He said that on multiple occasions he saw security forces firing tear gas canisters with such an apparent lack of training that they landed far from the protesters being targeted. Videos on social media posted at about 1 p.m. show a man who was apparently hit in the head and killed with a tear gas canister.
A protester  at the Baghdad demonstration told Human Rights Watch that he was a meter away from the protester killed in the video, and saw forces firing canisters at the crowd. “We were just protesting; we didn’t throw anything at the anti-riot police,” he said.
The human rights commission said on October 26 that on October 25 in Baghdad, at least eight of the deaths of protesters resulted from blows from tear gas canister.
The protester and journalist both said that in marked contrast to the early October protests, security forces in Baghdad did not fire live bullets at the crowds on October 25, but instead fired rubber bullets and stun grenades. Media reported five injuries from tear gas canisters to the head in a Baghdad protest on October 26.
Under international human rights standards, law enforcement may only use force when strictly necessary and to the extent required to achieve a legitimate policing objective. Forces should only use tear gas when necessary to prevent further physical harm and where possible issue an advance warning. During violent protests its use must be proportional to the seriousness of the offense, must meet a legitimate law enforcement objective, and should preferably be used alongside other non-lethal methods. The deliberate use of lethal force is only permissible when it is strictly necessary to protect life.
Human Rights Watch reviewed a video shared on WhatsApp, allegedly from a protest in Samawa, 240 kilometers south of Baghdad, which showed protesters throwing rocks towards security forces and the sound of gunfire. Another video, allegedly from Basra, showed a police vehicle driving at high speed into a group of protesters, who attacked the vehicle once it stopped. A protester  present on October 25 in Basra said that he saw one anti-riot police vehicle drive at high speed into a crowd of protesters, hitting at least 10, including a boy of around 14 who was sitting on a concrete block in the road. “I saw the car sever his leg. I heard later that he died,” he told Human Rights Watch.
A human rights monitor for a local organization told Human Rights Watch he attended a protest in Amara, 300 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, where at about 3:30 p.m., protesters tried to set fire to the office of the PMF group Asa`ib Ahl al-Haq. He said six men in civilian dress appeared on the roof of the building armed with Kalashnikovs, grenades, and hunting rifles, and opened fire on the protesters trying to approach. “At 4 p.m., I saw them shoot a man in the head in front of the office. He was with a group of about 20 protesters who were trying to enter the building.” He said he saw 10 protesters shot and injured in front of the office and left at 6 p.m. after hearing rumors that more armed forces were coming.
In Nasriya, one protester said he was with a group of about 1,000 people who headed to the office of Asa`ib Ahl al-Haq. As they approached, intending to burn down the office, forces from inside opened fire on them. He said they ran to hide nearby, next to a hospital, and gunfire seemed to also come from there. Protesters told him they saw a sniper on the hospital roof.
“When we got up, we saw bullet marks on the wall above our heads. I also saw a taxi driver who was in the car park of the hospital bringing someone inside get shot in the head, and I saw a doctor inside the hospital later who had been shot and killed,” he told Human Rights Watch. He said he also saw men in an Asa`ib Ahl al-Haq vehicle open fire on a police car.
Iraq’s constitution protects the right to free assembly and peaceful protest. The Iraqi government is obligated under international human rights law to protect the right to free expression and peaceful assembly and its security forces  should strictly abide by the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, applying nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force. Authorities should ensure that law enforcement is adequately trained on the use of tear gas and uses it in accordance with the UN principles.
Iraq’s international partners should condemn the use of excessive force, end assistance to units involved in serious violations, and explain publicly the grounds for suspending or ending military assistance.

“It is unacceptable that Iraqi forces are firing tear gas canisters directly at crowds, instead of above them,” Whitson said. “No one should die from a tear gas canister.”

Again, Donald Trump is supposed to speak tomorrow.  But he won't be addressing Iraq.  It is past time for world leaders to speak out against the continued assault of the Iraqi people by what is supposed to be their own government.

The following sites updated: