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.


Thousands of Iraqis Demonstrate on Thursday

In Baghdad and outside it, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets yesterday in solidarity with the Egyptian revolution, and to demand that the government supply basic needs to Iraqi citizens living in poverty as unemployment reached 45%.

About 1,000 Iraqis demonstrated yesterday at Al-Hamza, a town south of Baghdad, protesting food, water and power shortages. In Kut, also south of Baghdad, protesters called for the resignation of the provincial governor Latif Hamed. And after 3,000 protested at Al-Diwaniyya, authorities called a curfew in effect starting at 2 pm Thursday.

Religious leaders across Iraq called for social justice, reminding the Iraqi government that Iraq is not immune to the events that have swept other Arab countries.

In the meantime the Iraqi House of Representatives announced its support of the Egyptian people and its demands for democracy yesterday, according to a Radio Sawa reporter in Baghdad.