Iraqi Government Sends Mixed Signals as Protests Continue

On Friday Iraqis will take to the streets again in mourning over the 29 peaceful demonstrators who were killed last week in Baghdad’s Day of Rage. Among the protesters killed was a 14-year-old boy. As in previous protests, demonstrators will also demand political reform, an end to corruption, and jobs as well as clean water, food and electricity.

In an effort to prevent demonstrators from reaching Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on February 25, bridges and roads leading to Baghdad were closed off, a curfew was set in place and Al-Maliki said on television that Al-Qaeda operatives might be shooting people at the protests. Thousands of soldiers and riot police were deployed in the streets of Baghdad on the days of protests. Later “forces fired water cannons, sound bombs and live bullets to disperse crowds,” according to the Washington Post.

As February 25 approached Amnesty International and other human rights organizations called on the Iraqi government to respect the rights of protesters to assemble peacefully. Protesters who demonstrated before the Day of Rage had been attacked, beaten and stabbed by gangs. Besides the beatings, detentions and killings of protesters, Al-Maliki’s government detained around 300 peaceful demonstrators.

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Ahmedinejad Blames West for Election Unrest

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave a speech on state television on Tuesday insisting it due to the meddling of Western nations that violence broke out following the June 12th presidential election. “Our arrogant enemies tried to interfere in our domestic affairs in order to undermine these great elections. The result of their childish acts of interference in Iran’s internal affairs is that the Iranian nation and government will enter the global stage several times more powerful. What they did was very wrong, and some of our people were, unfortunately, hurt.”

20 people were killed in the aftermath of the disputed election results with over 100 people injured and thousands detained. Opposition leaders, including Mir Hussein Mousavi and former President Mohammed Khatami, have released a statement saying such a crackdown would not help his reputation amongst the people. Mousavi also has called on the EU to not recognize Ahmedinejad as a legitimate leader.

In his first public appearance in over a week, Mousavi’s comments suggested that the opposition will now be taking its fight off the streets and into the courtroom– and understandably so. Due to the large-scale crackdown and fear of the government’s seemingly indiscriminate arrests, protests numbered have begun dwindling.

Ahmedinejad continued to dismiss charges of election fraud, stating that, “the people who claimed there was fraud didn’t even have one document” to prove it, that “we have no expectations from

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gave a speech on state television on Tuesday insisting it due to the meddling of Western nations that violence broke out following the June 12th presidential election. “Our arrogant enemies tried to interfere in our domestic affairs in order to undermine these great elections. The result of their childish acts of interference in Iran’s internal affairs is that the Iranian nation and government will enter the global stage several times more powerful. What they did was very wrong, and some of our people were, unfortunately, hurt.”

20 people were killed in the aftermath of the disputed election results with over 100 people injured and thousands detained. Opposition leaders, including Mir Hussein Mousavi and former President Mohammed Khatami, have released a statement saying such a crackdown would not help his reputation amongst the people. Mousavi also has called on the EU to not recognize Ahmedinejad as a legitimate leader.

Ahmedinejad continued to dismiss charges of election fraud, stating that, “the people who claimed there was fraud didn’t even have one document” to prove it, that “we have no expectations from normal people, but we didn’t expect politicians to question this great epic.”

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post