Wiki.RIP

2019–20 Iraqi protests

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2019–20 Iraqi protests
Part of the Arab protests (2018–present)
Baghdadprotests.jpg
October protests - Baghdad
Date1 October 2019 (2019-10-01)present
(6 months, 1 week and 2 days)
Location
Caused by
MethodsDemonstrations, sit-ins, riots, civil disobedience, online activism
Statusongoing
Parties to the civil conflict
Iraq Iraqi protesters
[1]
Lead figures
non-centralized leadership Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi
(Prime Minister of Iraq)
Iraq Barham Salih
(President of Iraq)
Iraq Mohammed Al-Halbousi
(Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament)
Iraq Najah al-Shammari
(Minister of Defence)
Iraq Falih Al-Fayyadh
(Advisor of the National Security Council)
Iraq Mohanad Najim Aleqabi
(Director-General of Team Media War)
Iraq Nouri al-Maliki
(Head of Islamic Dawa Party)
Iraq Humam Hamoudi
(Head of Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq)
Muqtada al-Sadr
(Head of the Sadrist Movement)
Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis 
(Deputy Chairman of the PMF)
Abu Zainab Al-Lami[9]
(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 IRGC)
Iran Esmail Ghaani
(Commander of the Quds Force)
Iran Qasem Soleimani [8]
(Former Commander of the Quds Force)
Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah
(Leader of Hezbollah)
Hezbollah Mohammed Kawtharani[10]
(Member of the Political Council of Hezbollah)
Losses
Death(s)2,000
Injuries+27,000
Arrested2,800
Casualties data: 13 January 2020, per Iraqi Warcrimes Documentation Center[11]

The 2019–20 Iraqi protests, also named the October Revolution (Arabic: ثورة تشرين‎) [12] 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 corruption, unemployment and inefficient public services. The protest then escalated into full-scale calls to overthrow the administration and to stop Iranian intervention in Iraq. The Iraqi government has used live bullets, marksmen, hot water, hot pepper gas and tear gas against protesters, leading to many deaths and injuries.[13]

The protests stopped on 8 October and resumed on 25 October. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced on 29 November that he would resign.[14] On 26 December, President Barham Salih submitted a letter of resignation after refusing to appoint governor of Basra Asaad Al Eidani who was nominated by Bina bloc, an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc, as the new Prime Minister, stating that Al Eidani would not be approved by the demonstrators.[15][16]

According to the BBC, the protestors call for the end of the political system which has existed since the US-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein and has been marked by sectarian divides.[17][18][19] The protests are the largest incident of civil unrest since the fall of Saddam Hussein.[20]

Background

In 2011, protests broke out in various provinces within Iraq demanding the end of corruption, nepotism, and unemployment, while also calling for increased wages and improved public services such as electricity, transportation, health care, education and municipal services.[21][22][23] Protestors faced government suppression, police brutality and arrests.[24] These reform 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.[25][26] This, in turn, led to protests calling for the overthrow of the sectarian government and redrafting the constitution, as well as a march into Baghdad to occupy the Green Zone.[26] These protests were faced with even more government suppression, leading to clashes between security forces and local tribesmen who had alleged support from Ba'ath Party loyalists.[27][28] 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.[29] 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".[30][31]

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.[32] 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,[33] chasing representatives out of the Green Zone before retreating the day after by the call of Al-Sadr.[34] 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.[35][36] 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.[37][38] 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.[39][40][38]

Remembering the rise of ISIS during the protests in 2012,[41] these ones avoided sectarian rhetoric.[42] Initially Americans had not seemed to be the focus of the anger although a 2019 poll found that only 22% of Iraqis had a favorable opinion of the United States, while 16% had a favorable opinion of Iran.[41] However this preliminary assumption clearly turned out to be wrong after few months when hundreds of thousands opposed US presence in the country.[1]

Prelude

On 20 June in Basra demonstrators gathered outside the city's new administrative headquarters to vent their anger about poor basic services and unemployment. The old headquarters were burnt down during 2018's months-long protest. Basra and the surrounding region produce about 90 percent of the country's oil wealth but most of its residents have not benefited from it. Protesters blamed the Basra's authorities for the city's problems, from a lack of job opportunities to unreliable and poor public utilities. Riot police were deployed at the scene but the protest remained peaceful.[43]

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 said 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] According to VOA News, Al Saedi's transfer was influenced individually by pro-Iran factions within the Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, said a government official in Iraq who asked to be kept unknown.[54] 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.[55][56] In response to this backlash, Abdul-Mahdi said he stands by his decision and that it is a normal routine decision with no political motivations.[57] 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.[58][59] 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."[60]

Causes, goals and methods

Starting on 25 October 2019, mass protests took place in many cities in Iraq, including Kerbala, against corruption and a national government that protestors saw as unaccountable for its actions. After the U.S. occupation (2003–11), oligarchs and warlords were perceived to have taken control over Iraq. While the country produces more oil than the United Arab Emirates, the oil revenues were seen by protestors as failing to be spent on maintenance of hospitals and roads. A widely used slogan in this phase of the protests was: "We want a homeland"—reflecting a longing both for a sense of unity and for a self-determined life in dignity.[61]

While at daytime protesters from all strata of Iraqi society peacefully took to the streets and squares of cities like Kerbala, later at night, youths from the suburbs sought violent confrontations, using molotov cocktails and burning car-tyres, which was answered by the state security forces with tear gas, rubber bullets, deadly snipers and even patrol vehicles lethally ramming into crowds.[61]

Role of Intercept Iranian influence report

A leaked 700-page document reported on 18 November by The Intercept and shared with The New York Times documented "far more than was previously understood about the extent to which Iran and the United States [had] used Iraq as a staging area for their spy games." The documents were mostly Iranian intelligence officials' communications from their visits to Iraq in 2014 and 2015.[62] Al-Monitor described the report as having "shaken Iraq's political foundations, giving more energy and persistence to the protestors and exposing huge scandals that affect almost all Iraqi politicians."[63] The Intercept highlighted a report of a meeting at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad in relation to the concern that Haider al-Abadi, a proposed new prime minister for Iraq, was not sufficiently under Iranian influence. The meeting expressed satisfaction that eight of the ministers under Abadi were sufficiently "in complete harmony", "close", in a "special relationship" or "loyal to" Iran, including Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Minister of Transportation Bayan Jabr Solagh, and two were "better than the previous [ones]". One of the top political advisers of the Speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Salim al-Jabouri, spied for Iran under the code identity Source 134832.[62]

Assassination and intimidation campaign

Reuters reported that during the October protests, Iran-backed militia snipers were on Baghdad rooftops, according to two Iraqi security officials.[64]

A day after the October protests started, activists Hussein Adel al-Madani, 25 years old, and his wife Sara Talib, 24 years old, who had spent time in exile in Turkey, changed address and ceased participating in protests, were assassinated in Basra by unidentified gunmen. Friends of the victims and security services told Thomson Reuters that the assassination had been ordered by an Iran-backed militia. Interviews by Thomson Reuters with officials and activists indicated a "pattern of mass arrests, intimidation and torture, and in some cases targeted killings of Iraqi protesters", with six activists "shot dead in or near their homes" over the year from November 2018 to October 2019, that was attributed by the interviewees to an Iran-backed militia. The activists had criticized the militias and been threatened for their activism. In November, gunmen in unmarked cars killed activist Adnan Rustum in Baghdad and another activist in Amara.[citation needed]

An Iranian official contacted by Thomson Reuters said the claims of assassinations and threats by Iran-backed militias were "baseless".[citation needed]

The Iraqi Prime Minister stated during a parliament meeting, “Huge demonstrations against me duly materialized and Trump called again to threaten that if I did not comply with his demands, then he would have Marine snipers on tall buildings target protesters and security personnel alike in order to pressure me. I refused again and handed in my resignation. To this day the Americans insist on us rescinding our deal with the Chinese.” Mahdi says he was also “threatened with false-flag sniper shootings of both protesters and security personnel in order to inflame the situation”, “After this, when our Minister of Defense publicly stated that a third party was targeting both protestors and security personnel alike (just as Trump had threatened he would do), I received a new call from Trump threatening to kill both me and the Minister of Defense if we kept on talking about this “third party”.

Two Iraqi security officials contacted by Thomson Reuters stated the beating and electrocution of detained protestors, and the forcing of detained protestors to promise media silence were common. Iraqi government security spokesperson Abdul Karim Khalaf said that any evidence of torture should be investigated but no claims had been confirmed.[citation needed] The human rights committee of the Iraqi parliament called for an official investigation into the "' assassinations and kidnappings' of activists and bloggers."[citation needed]

Hassan Wahab of the Amal Association human rights group said, "Those [protestors] detained and released are only released on bail. Charges are not dropped so they face re-arrest and trial."[64]

As of 23 December 2019, there were 29 assassinated activists related to the protests, most of them were in Baghdad.[65] On 10 January 2020, an Iraqi journalist, Ahmad Abdelsamad, of Dijlah TV and his cameraman, Safaa Ghali, were shot in their car by unidentified gunmen.[66][67][68]

On 21 January, the police stated that Janat Madhi, a 49-year old activist was gunned down by unknown gunmen as she came back home from protests in the southern city of Basra, according to the Urdu Point.[69]

Attack on US Embassy in Baghdad

US Embassy in Baghdad was attacked on the last day of 2019. The attack was organized and directed by Iran's proxy leaders Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Qays al-Khazali, Hadi al Amari, and Faleh al-Fayyad. They are seen in the pictures taken on the scene.[70]

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of the leaders of the attack on US Embassy in Baghdad, was condemned and spent years in jail in Kuwait for directing the December 1983 attacks on the US and French embassies there.[71][72]

For a long time, Iraqi anti-government protestors tried to enter Green Zone and were brutally suppressed and held back. On 31 December, groups of Popular Mobilization Forces (al-Hashd al-Sha'abi) entered the Green Zone and went directly toward the American Embassy without being blocked by security forces.[73]

US president Donald Trump accused Iran of "orchestrating" the attack on the embassy and added that they would be held "fully responsible".[74] In the aftermath, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, Major General Qasem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were assassinated in a U.S. drone strike while traveling in a convoy near Baghdad International Airport.[75] On January 5 in reaction to these airstrikes the Iraqi parliament called for the expulsion of US troops from the country.[76]

Timeline 2019

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.[77] Protesters demanded the resignation of Adil Abdul-Mahdi and prepare for early elections.[78] The protesters also began demonstrating against Iranian influence, and against the leader of Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani.[79] At the beginning of the protests, the demonstrators were mostly young male, holding the government responsible for its many failures, according to vox.[80] The Iraqi prime minister declared a curfew until further notice.[81]

2 October: Two activists, Hussain Almadani and his wife, Sarah, were killed by unknown forces in their house in Basra.[82]

3 October: According to Amnesty International, 18 civilians and one police officer were killed and hundreds were injured after three days of protesting.[83]

4 October: In Nasiriyah, many headquarters of political parties were burned down.[84]

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.[85]

7 October: Dozens of protesters were killed and hundreds were injured in Sadr City.[86]

8 October: Protests largely ceased due to Arba'een,[87] a Shia religious holiday which occurred on October 19. According to Arab News, regardless of warnings from the Iranian authorities for the pilgrims to procrastinate going on the pilgrimage to Iraq, 3.5 million Shiites, mainly Iranians entered Iraq through land borders on Friday.[88]

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.[89]

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.[90] 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 nine PMU members had been killed in the recent protests, blamed Israel for their deaths, and stated he would take revenge "four times over."[91] Protesters burned down and destroyed many offices of political parties in the city of Samawah.[92] Protesters in Karbala chanted against Iran, tearing up Ali Khamenei's pictures. They also attacked the Governorate Council building.[93] They also burnt the Iranian consulate.[94] In Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate, protesters burned down the Governorate Council building. Administrative authorities declared a curfew in the province.[95] 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.[96]

26 October: 7 protesters were killed and 28 wounded after conflicts between Badr Organization and protesters in city of Hillah in Babil Governorate.[97] The seven protesters died when members of the Badr organization opened fire at protesters assembled in front of their office, according to the guardian.[98]

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.[99] In Karbala, 14-30 people were killed in protests. Government officials denied any deaths occurred.[94]

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.[100]

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."[101]

November

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.[102]

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.[103] According to Reuters, 3 protesters were killed when Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition at protesters gathered outside the Iranian consulate.[104] However, the BBC was led to believe that the source of the gunfire was anonymous and it was aimed at both the security forces and protesters .[105]

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.[106] Netblocks added that the new internet shut down is currently perceived to be the most extreme shut down experienced in Iraq.[107] Iraqi authorities had taken a similar move in October, where social media and messaging remained highly restricted in several parts of the country.[108]

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.[109]

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.[110]

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.[111]

14 November: Four people were killed and 62 injured in Baghdad in clashes between security forces and protesters.[112]

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.[113]

17 November: Documents leaked by The Intercept[62] revealed details of Iranian influence inside Iraq.[63] The Intercept was said to have received the documents from an unknown source and has since been unable to identify, according to the guardian.[114]

19 November: Protesters blocked the entrance to the country's second largest commercial port, Khor al-Zubair port, halting the trade activity for oil and other tankers. Prior to that, the access to Umm Qasr Port was also cut off.[115]

21 November: Al-Jazeera reported that at least seven protesters were killed and 78 wounded by security forces in Baghdad.[116]

24 November: At least two protesters were shot dead in the southern city of Nasiriyah, as they shut down schools and blocked the Zaitoun and the Nasr bridges into the city center. Nearly 47 people were also wounded during the clashes with security forces.[117]

27 November: Protestors attacked the Iranian consulate in Najaf for the second time, this time burning it down.[118] Security forces fired tear gas into the crowd and injured some of them but had to escape when hundreds of protesters poured into the consulate and set it on fire.[119]

29 November: 44 protestors were killed in southern Iraq.[120] The prime minister announced his pending resignation on the same day.[14]

December

1 December: Despite the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, demonstrators in the Shi'ite populated city of Najaf set fire to the Iranian consulate, for the second time in a week.[121] According to BBC, reports showed that staff at the Iranian consulate were able to escape immediately before the demonstrators stormed the consulate.[122] A police official said that when the police fired shots with live ammunition in order to stop the protesters from breaking into the consulate, one protester was killed and a minimum of 35 people were injured, according to Al Jazeera.[123]

6 December: Unidentified gunmen in vehicles opened fire on protesters in Baghdad's Khilani Square, killing 25 (including three police officers) and injuring around 130 others.[124] The attacks were said to have followed a day after a string of suspicious stabbings in Baghdad's Tahir Square, leaving at least 15 wounded, according to the guardian.[125][126] According to Aljazeera, some protesters blamed the Iraqi government of conspiring with the gunmen, indicating to a power outage that coincided with the time of the attacks.[127]

8 December: An Iraqi civil activist, Fahim al-Ta’i was assassinated by unknown gunmen on motorcycle outside al-Ansar Hotel in the Baroudi area of Karbala.[128]

12 December: A 16-year-old boy - falsely accused of shooting protestors - was dragged along the ground and lynched by protestors after security forces withdrew. The boy's deceased body was de-clothed apart from his underpants and was later hung from a traffic light. It was later removed by his family and taken to a forensic morgue.[129]

Muqtada al-Sadr's group stated that it would withdraw its "blue helmets" support for the protests unless the "terrorists responsible" for the lynching were identified.[129] A protestor's group described the lynching as "a Machiavelli a plan aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the peaceful protesters" and that the protestors "had nothing to do with" the lynching event.[129]

24 December: The Council of Representatives passed a series of electoral laws to placate protestors. The laws allowed voters to select individuals rather than use party lists, while the candidates would represent electoral districts rather than provinces.[130]

26 December: President Barham Salih submits a letter of resignation after refusing to appoint Asaad Al Eidani as Prime Minister following the resignation of Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Salih stated that Al Eridani would not be approved by the demonstrators.[15][16] President Salih added that since the constitution voids him of the right to refuse a nomination, he prefers to step down instead of accepting the nomination of a new prime minister that the protesters would reject.[131]

29 December: The US bombarded Kata'ib Hezbollah positions in Iraq, killing 25 members of those Kataib forces and injuring 51 others.[132]

31 December: Hundreds of pro-Iran protesters surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad in the Green Zone of the city where embassies and government buildings are concentrated, in protest over the US airstrikes in Iraq, two days earlier. Protesters elsewhere in Baghdad stated: "demonstrations at the US embassy are a natural response to the US strikes over Hashd positions in Iraq". However, they condemned the attack on the U.S. embassy by Iraqi supporters of the Hashd group saying, "we are staying here in the hub of the peaceful protest movement " and added that the "crowds in the Green Zone do not represent us. We want peaceful change." Rumors speculated that on that day, some protesters had broken into the US embassy compound.[132] However, sometime later the US ministry of foreign affairs announced that protesters had not entered the actual embassy building in Baghdad and that the US ambassador was still at his post.[133]

Timeline 2020

January

A protester in Baghdad carrying two tires and walking in front of a policeman on 13 January

5 January: Following the 3 January assassination by the United States (US) of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani and of the head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, protests continued in Nassiriyah, Dewaniya, Kut, Amarah, Karbala and Baghdad with a deliberate shift to protesting against both the Iranian and US roles in Iraq. Earlier protests tended to mostly oppose Iranian influence in Iraq. The earlier slogan "Out, out Iran" was replaced by "No to Iran, no to America".[134] Protestors in Basra and Nassiriyah blocked symbolic funeral processions for Soleimani and al-Muhandis. In Nasiriyah, pro-Iran funeral participants shot and wounded three protestors. In revenge, the local headquarters of the PMF was set alight.[135] Protestors in Najaf burnt tyres and protested against the US and Iran.[135] In reaction to the airstrikes, the Iraqi parliament called for the expulsion of US troops from the country.[76]

7 January: Online and street campaigns to buy local products, titled "Made in Iraq" and "Iraqi National Product", continued after the Soleimani and al-Muhandis assassinations, strengthening in Baghdad.[136]

10 January: Two thousand people protested in Basra and Nasiriyah, with slogans including "Neither America nor Iran, our revolution is a young revolution." Appeals for a "million-man march" spread through online social media.[137]

11 January: Two reporters, who covered months of protests against the Iraqi government, was shot dead by two armed men in a car in Basra. On 12 January, hundreds of Iraqis in Basra mourned the death of the correspondent for local television station al-Dijla, Ahmad Abdessamad, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali.[138] A mourner stated that the attack was obviously an attempt to keep people silent, France 24 reported.[139] On Sunday, Iraq's Ministry of interior invited journalists to a conference in Basra, in order to discuss the killings, as well as the security conditions of the City. However, the ministry was left with no choice but to cancel the conference because journalists refused to attend.[140]

17 January: At least two people were killed and dozens injured after the security forces fire upon protesters at Sinak bridge in central Baghdad.[141] In the southern city of Najaf, Iraqi protesters attacked the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia's center and set it afire. Next day protestors continued by burning posters of Qassem Soleimani.[142]

20 January: Four protesters and two police officers were killed in fresh clashes in Baghdad.[143]

22 January: Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights announced that at least 10 people have been killed in the violent unrest across the country within the last two days, Al Jazeera reported.[144] Iraq's President Barham Salih, attended a meeting with US President Donald Trump at Davos January 22, where they discussed the strategic foreign relations between Iraq and the US, which was perceived by Iran-backed militias as a clear indication that Salih wants the US military to remain in Iraq, despite warning him not to meet with Trump.[145]

23 January: Amnesty International warned that Iraqi security forces have continued their series of operations involving the use of deadly violence against peaceful protesters, based on substantiating video analysis and eyewitness reports confirmed by the organization.[146] According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, at least 8 people are believed to have been wounded on Thursday when security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters on the Mohammed al-Qassim highway.[147]

24 January: Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr's call for a “million-strong” march was answered, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis marched to the streets demanding the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.[1][148] The Green zone which houses the US embassy alongside the path of the march was heavily surrounded by security forces, CNN added.[149] According to the BBC, among those protesting in the city of Baghdad are Iranian-backed militias, with many others carrying Iraq's national flags and placards criticizing the presence of US troops in the country. However, several anti-government protesters are concerned that Moqtada's call to force US military out of Iraq could surpass their separate, months-long protests that have disputed the grip on power by Iran-backed Shi’ite groups.[150][151]

According to the Guardian, a statement by the influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was read out by his representative on the stage at the place of the protest, calling for the closure of Iraqi airspace to US military and surveillance aircraft, the annulment of Iraqi's security agreement with the US, as well as the departure of all foreign forces from the country, and so on.[152] A rough estimate suggested that the turnout of the protesters had reached two hundred thousand, according to Vox.[153]

25 January: Iraqi security forces raided a protest site in Baghdad and tried to remove protesters in southern cities, firing tear gas and live bullets, killing four and wounding dozens more. The raid came after Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers to withdraw.[154] It was reported that al-Sadr's followers packed up their tents and departed the camps after the withdrawal of his support.[155] The withdrawal of Iraq's Sadrists in their support for the anti-government protest movement has left many pondering, as to whether a government crackdown will follow.[156]

26 January: In Baghdad rockets hit the United States embassy wounding at least one. One rocket was said to hit the embassy cafeteria, while two other rockets landed nearby, a security source was cited by the AFP news agency.[157][158] According to CNN, the wounded individual sustained a minor injury and had already resumed duty, a US official added.[159] On Sunday, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq stated that over the last three days, 9 protesters were killed in Baghdad and 3 others in Nasiriyah in the Iraqi protests, leaving 230 others wounded.[160]

27 January In the city of Nasiriyah, south of Iraq, security forces opened fire at a crowd of anti-government protesters and killed one person.[161][162] On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Iraqi PM Abdul Mahdi to uphold Iraq's sovereignty in light of attacks from Iran on US facilities in Iraq, including Sunday's rocket attacks against the US embassy in Baghdad.[163]

31 January the Human Rights Watch urged the Iraqi authorities to investigate unlawful use of force and all killings at the hands of security forces, with the aid of international experts if need be.[164] On Friday, security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowd at Baghdad's Khilani and Wathba squares, leaving at least 11 protesters injured, medical and security officials stated.[165]

February

1 February Iraq's President Barham Salih, appointed a former Minister of Communications Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, as the country's new Prime Minister.[166] However, anti-government protesters promptly rejected the appointment of Mohammed Allawi as the new prime-minister designate, by holding rallies in Baghdad, as well as in cities across the country's southern provinces.[167] Later in the evening, in an address to Iraqis on state television, Allawi pledged to form a representative government, hold early parliamentary elections, ensure justice for the unlawful acts against protesters, among all other claims by the protesters.[168]

2 February Protesters who were against Allawi's nomination started grouping their tents together away from the tents occupied by Sadrists in Baghdad's Tahir square.[169]

3 February Al Jazeera reported that since the onset of the protests, the death toll is now believed to have reached 536, alongside 13 members of the security forces, as announced by the Iraqi state television.[170] On Monday, Sadrists who were identified wearing “blue hats,” stormed an anti-regime rally which led to the demise of a protester who was stabbed to death, leaving three others injured, security and medical sources stated.[171]

4 February A day after a demonstrator was killed, tensions between Sadr supporters and protesters against Allawi's nomination increased, as the rift erupted into a fistfight between the two opposing groups in the southern city of Diwaniyah.[172] According to Arab News, despite the interference of security forces, the young anti-regime protesters chanted against Sadr, Iraqi authorities, including Iran, which they blamed for supporting the government's harsh actions towards protesters.[173] Furthermore, in order to ensure schools were fully reopened in Diwaniyah after sit-ins had forced them to shut down, security forces were sighted outside the schools, as well as government offices.[174]

5 February Violence erupted in the holy city of Najaf, as al-Sadr's followers tried to forcibly remove demonstrators from their protest camps.[175] Medical sources stated that at least 8 people were killed during the clash, leaving at least 20 more injured, according to Reuters News Agency.[176] Out of the 8 protesters who were killed, 7 of them were believed to have died as a result of bullets to either the chest or head, France 24 added.[177] The number of injured people had reached 52, according to The New York Times.[178]

Mohammed Allawi, Iraq's PM-designate, held a meeting on Wednesday with several representatives of the protest movement from the various provinces across the country.[179] Similar clashes involving al-Sadr's followers attempting to suppress the protests were reported to have taken place across other parts of the country as well, including Karbala, Diwaniyah, Dhi Qar, Baghdad, among others, according to the Kurdistan 24.[180]

6 February Following the violence that erupted on Wednesday between anti-government protesters and followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, hundreds of anti-government protesters have returned to the site of the violence, as they rallied through the streets of the holy city of Najaf, in an attempt to rebuild their protest camp that was destroyed.[181] On Thursday evening, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, issued a statement condemning the killing of anti-government protesters in the city of Najaf and called on the Iraqi government to see to the need of protesters, as well as punish those responsible for the killings.[182]

7 February Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani being one of the most powerful and influential figures in Iraq, several protesters and Iraqi activists are clinging on to him as their last beacon of hope, as they urge him to call for a million-strong march against the Iraqi government ahead of Friday's sermon.[183] During this week's Friday sermon, in remarks presented by al-Sistani's representative in the holy city of Karbala, he denounced the clash with Sadrists in Najaf on Wednesday, and hold security forces responsible for failing to prevent the death of 8 protesters.[184] It was projected by the Iraqi Human Rights Commission on Friday that almost 550 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the anti-government protests in Iraq, which started in October last year.[185] Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, further called on Allawi to create a government that will be trusted by the people, and represent them as well.[186]

Following the Friday sermon of influential Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani’, a lot of anti-government protesters and activists are feeling hopeful and convinced that the protest movement which started in early October, will now regain its momentum, Al Jazeera reported.[187] The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani, has issued a statement condemning the unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters on Wednesday, even though the Kurdish authorities have adopted similar approaches.[188]

9 February Moqtada Al-Sadr suggested in a tweet, 18 points which the Iraqi protesters should stick to during protests, including the avoidance of free mixing between men and women in protest sites.[189]

10 February A protester was shot dead near a protest site at the al-Ain University in the city of Nasiriyah, as Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition to break up a gathering of protesters, according to The New York Times.[190] The security forces were believed to have started shooting at the protesters when they attempted creating a blockage at the entrance of the university.[191] American citizens living in Iraq have been advised by the U.S. embassy in Iraq, to remain vigilant ahead of huge protests that are expected to hold for the next three days in Baghdad, as well as Najaf.[192]

However, the Iranian consulate in Iraq that was set ablaze last year by protesters is now functional, as Visa operations continue, while regular consular services are expected to commence from next week, according to Bloomberg. The Najaf police have been charged with the responsibility of providing security and protection for the consulate after its reopening, Lieutenant Najm Al-Saadi added.[193][194]

11 February Influential Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, has dissolved the Blue caps unit which has been accused of violence that led to the death of anti-government protesters last week in Najaf, and also publicly rejected what is known as the Sadrist movement on twitter.[195] Member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Sarkawt Shamsulddin speaking at the Atlantic Council on 11 February, maintained that the huge protests that have been going on since October last year which ended the previous government, presents Mohammed Allawi with the golden chance of bringing about tangible transformation in Iraq.[196]

12 February Protest sites in Baghdad have been reopened by Iraqi security forces, allowing anti-government protests continue in al-Tahir square only on the condition that protection will be provided by the Iraqi security forces, the Global Times reported. Protesters were seen collaborating with security forces in order to ensure free movement across the Sinak bridge that has been closed down for months.[197][198]

13 February Iraqi women have come out in hundreds to criticize the use of force against protesters in Baghdad and the city of Nasiriyah, in order to challenge the call made by Moqtada al-Sadr against the mixing of men and women in protest sites. Male anti-government protesters also joined the rally, with some of the women seen wearing veils, while others had their faces wrapped in black and white scarves.[199][200] A usual incident happened on the protest site, which involved both men and women setting their camps side by side one another.[201] According to the Daily Sabah, several protesters carried Iraqi flags and roses, marching for over an hour, with the men linking their arms around the women to form a circle.[202] Later in the evening, al-Sadr condemned the rally on his Twitter account, which he described as a sin and an attempt at compromising the righteousness of Iraq.[203]

40 days after Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraq's paramilitary leader were killed by US drones, hundreds of Iraqis in Baghdad came out to the site to mark 40 days remembrance of their death.[204]

14 February Haaretz disclosed that Iraqi security forces are preparing in anticipation of a violent clash between the protest movement and followers of al-Sadr this Saturday, as two large-scale protests are expected to take place [205]

15 February A 50-year-old Iraqi with German residence tried to set himself ablaze during the Munich Security Conference near Karlsplatz, Germany.[206] The German police were able to prevent him as the man immersed himself in Petrol and attempted rushing into a gathering with a lighter in his hand, the Baghdad Post added.[207]

16 February Alaa al-Rikaby, the prominent activist in Nasiriyah was backed to replace the premier-designate Mohammed Allawi by Hundreds of protesters who demonstrated on the streets carrying al-Rikaby's photo.[208] Meanwhile, shopkeepers in Al Rasheed Street, one of the oldest streets in Baghdad, have decried the lack of improvement in trade, regardless of the reopening of roads and bridges nearby.[209]

17 February Based on plausible accusations received by the United Nations envoy to Iraq, of peaceful protesters being fired at with hunting rifles, firebombs and stones last weekend, the Iraqi government has been urged to look into the matter to ensure the protection of peaceful protesters.[210] In a statement issued by UNAMI, because of similar use of force, at least 150 people were wounded in the holy city of Karbala last month.[211] Following a meeting between the speaker of the Iraqi parliament Mohammed al-Halbusi and a 13-year-old protester popularly known as Hamid Daghethoum, the speaker pledged his full backing for the demands made by protesters.[212]

20 February Protesters in the city of Nasiriyah, which has been a focal point of the anti-government protests in the south, were still demanding for one of their own to become the prime minister, regardless of the increasing force applied by security forces.[213] According to Kurdistan24, a delegation of the Kurdistan Region has accused Allawi of not recognizing the political and legal position of the Kurdistan region, after its visit to the capital to hold talks with the Iraqi PM, which was abruptly shortened.[214]

22 February Iraqi protesters decided to move the center of their protests from Baghdad to Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province, with hundreds of protesters arriving from Najaf and more expected from other cities as well.[215]

23 February New clashes erupted between anti-government protesters and security forces at Khilani Square in Baghdad central, where one person was killed and at least 6 others injured.[216] Live ammunition was fired by Iraqi security forces to break up the crowd that was gathered close to Sinak bridge which was opened again recently by security forces after being closed down by protesters for several months.[217] A commendable 24 -year-old Iraqi Nurse Hannah Jassem, was reported to have assisted in stitching up injuries in an open-fronted shack at the protest site in Tahrir Square over the weekend.[218] Also, more than 1,000 students marched through Tahrir Square, holding up pictures of victims who they believed were martyred in the demonstrations.[219]

On the same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Mohammed Allawi to congratulate him on his appointment as the Prime Minister-designate, according to the Sun herald. During the call, both parties assented to the significance of improving the conditions, well being and security for the people of Iraq by the government.[220][221]

25 February Despite reports that five people have been tested positive for coronavirus, as well as heavy rainfall, thousands of anti-government protesters came out to protest in Baghdad, wearing face masks.[222] According to the Middle East monitor, the confidence vote for the newly formed cabinet of Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi, which was planned for Monday by the Iraqi parliament, has been delayed by two days.[223]

26 February Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi, disclosed that the Iraqi parliament tomorrow will hold a vote to confirm his new cabinet, which he maintained that will comprise of autonomous ministers.[224]

27 February Several lawmakers who are not satisfied with Allawi's ministerial list abstained from attending the session, which led to the postponement of the session by the Iraqi parliament. Prior to the vote, Mohammed Allawi reportedly sent a letter to the British embassy requesting the annulment of his British citizenship, the National added.[225][226] There was anticipation that Iraq's speaker of parliament Mohammed Al-Halbousi, would bring up the issue of Mohammed Allawi's dual citizenship during the session, according to the New Arab.[227] An official complaint has been filed with Iraq's attorney by the Iraqi parliament, following the accusation made by Muhammed Allawi, that lawmakers are collecting bribes in order to thwart his regime.[228]

March

1 March Iraqi parliament for the second time this week, failed to endorse Mohammed Allawi's new cabinet has left him with no choice other than to step down as the Prime Minister-designate.[229] According to the Jakarta Post, Allawi in a letter he sent to President Saleh stating the reason for his resignation, he accused some political factions of not having the will of the people at heart and neglecting the importance of the reform. He also urged the President to accept his apology for being unable to establish a new cabinet, while admitting that he is unfit for the role he has been tasked with.[230][231] Following Allawi's proclamation, protesters in Tahrir Square showed excitement and joy, as they had already disapproved of his nomination and his entire cabinet, BBC added.[232] However, in accordance with the Iraqi constitution, President Barham Salih is expected to propose a new prime minister within the next 15 days. [233] The governor of Basra province Asaad al-Eidani, is said to be one of the many names speculated to replace Mohammed Allawi, despite his objection by demonstrators prior to the appointment of Allawi, according to the New York Times. [234]

2 March Early in the morning, just hours after Prime Minister Candidate Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi withdrew his nomination for the position, two Katyusha rockets reportedly struck the heavily fortified Greenzone in central Baghdad, leaving zero casualties, according to DW. One of the rockets was believed to have landed close to the US embassy, Reuters added.[235][236]

3 March The United Nations envoy for Iraq criticized the Iraqi parliament for failing to reach a quorum, which hampers the ability of the government to make decisions, hence, leading the Iraqi people into an unpredictable future.[237]

5 March Protesters took to the streets again early in the morning in Basra province, blocking vital roads, burning tires, as well as urging the immediate appointment of an independent to create a new government.[238]

8 March A clash erupted between Iraqi security forces and protesters, which left 16 protesters injured, when the security forces fired tear gas at the protesters in Baghdad's Al-Khilani Square, according to the MEM. [239]

10 March In Maysan province of Southern Iraq, unknown gunmen killed two anti-government activists, Abdel-Aaddous Qasim and Karrar Adil, according to a security source in Iraq.[240] Shia armed groups linked with Iran have been blamed by some activists of being responsible for the attack, but the groups have falsified these claims.[241]

17 March Former governor of the holy city of Najaf Adnan al-Zurfi, was appointed by President Barham Salih, to succeed Mohammed Allawi as the new prime minister-designate of Iraq. [242] Al-Zurfi, who is presently the parliamentary head of the Nasr coalition that was created by former PM Haider al-Abadi, also has 30 days to form a new cabinet that is subject to approval by the parliament. [243] According to the BBC, larger groups were unable to concur on choosing Abdel Mahdi's successor, which subsequently led to the appointment of Zurif by President Saleh.[244] However, on Tuesday, protesters in Tahrir Square have turned down al-Zurfi's nomination, regarding him as part and parcel of the corrupt regime they've been trying to sweep away.[245] The U.N. special envoy to Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, applauded Zurif's nomination, adding that the country requires a powerful and efficient PM. [246]

New evidence has come to light, as a result of an investigation conducted by Amnesty International and SITU Research which showed that Iraqi security forces have been intentionally using smoke grenades and heavy tear gas to kill protesters, instead of breaking up crowds since October last year when the protests commenced. The research encompassed thorough video analysis and a 3D reconstruction of incidents near Baghdad's Tahrir Square and Jimhouriya Bridge, according to Urdu Point News.[247][248] Based on their findings, the grenades which were produced by Serbians and Iranians, saw to the fatal destruction of at least two dozen demonstrators in the place of the incident since October last year.[249]

21 March Protesters in Tahrir Square and other parts of Iraq disclosed that their anti-government protests had officially come to an end, as they have decided to go back to their homes until the coronavirus has been defeated. [250]

29 March Regardless of the coronavirus pandemic and curfew in Iraq, few protesters in Baghdad have decided to adopt a systematic way of maintaining the protest camps while engaging the security forces, as well as the deadly virus. [251] Prime Minister-designate Adnan al-Zurfi pledged to use all resources at his disposal within both the public and private sector, as he announces the initiation of a government program to effectively tackle the coronavirus outbreak. [252]

April 4, Prime Minister-designate Adnan Zurfi handed over his plans to the Iraqi parliament as demonstrators refused to obey curfew imposed by the government, leading to the eruption of violence with security forces. Several Iraqi security forces were reported to have sustained injuries in the process of firing tear gas at protesters in Nasiriya, who responded by throwing gasoline bombs at them, according to the Baghdad Post. [253][254] Despite anti-government protests having been officially put on hold earlier last week in order to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, protesters continue to remain in major protest sites, as they claim that the killings of activists are yet to stop. [255]

6 April, The American oil company located in the oil-rich Basra province of southern Iraq, came under attack as five rockets were reportedly fired close to the site, Iraqi military confirmed. [256] The Security forces added that at least three Katyusha missiles were fired, leaving zero casualties, according to the MEM. [257] Following the attack, a rocket launcher with 11 unused missiles was also discovered by the Iraqi security forces along the Zubair-Shuaiba road, but they were able to defuse them. [258] However, no group has been linked to the attack yet. [259]

7 April, A strategic dialogue between Washington and the Iraqi government is scheduled to take place in June, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disclosed. He added that several issues are expected to be ironed out, including the position of US military forces currently staying in Iraq. [260][261] Considering the growing tensions in the region, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has also expressed his support for the initiation of a dialogue between the two countries, according to the Jerusalem Post. [262]

See also

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