Iraq In Transition

Nasiriya: 'promise the revolution will be back' if demands not met

  • 2020-05-29
Nasiriya: 'promise the revolution will be back' if demands not met
Dhi Qar, several protestors are waving the Iraqi flag at the Habubi square in the city of Nasiriya, 2020. Photo: Ali Nasri
Ali Nasri- Dhi Qar

Abu Ahmad, who is in his 50s, is sitting down in front of his tent at the Habubi square in the southern city of Nasiriya. Resistance is seen from his eyes, he again set up his tents in a way showing that he will continue protesting and will not leave the square. “No matter how long our revolution will take, it will succeed.”

Ahmad, who advocates for fundamental political and economic reforms, said that, “I have joined the protests since start of the demonstrations on October 1st, 2019 and have continued for eight months.”  Even though hundreds of people have been killed, he is optimistic that his demands will be met.

Ahmad, who is among tens of people whom are called “revolutionaries”, remains at the protests square and insists on his continuous participation in the demonstrations, while the number of protestors who still stay at the tents have dropped greatly due to their compliance with the medical instructions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

Rejecting the promises

Salam Kadhim Talb, a student at the department of law at the university of Dhi Qar, explains the legitimacy of the demonstrations in the last eight months and said that, “the reforms that the former government as well as the current one led by Mustafa al-Kadhimi have announced are elastic reforms.”

The reforms that the former government as well as the current one led by Mustafa al-Kadhimi have announced are elastic reforms

He asked for addressing the demands of the protestors, especially “the prosecution of those killed protestors as a sing for showing goodwill.”

Since the spark of the social uprisings in the southern cities, the protestors in Nasiriya have chosen the Habubi square as their stronghold and have remained there.

Nearly 200 tents were built at the square, surrounding the statue of the prominent Iraqi poet, Mohammed Sa’ed Habubi, who was one of the leaders in the Iraqi revolt in 1920 against the British. Some of the tents are removed and others are still occupied be certain number of protestors due to the coronavirus.

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Dhi Qar, the Habubi square, 2020. Photo: Ali Nasir 

Preparation for another wave of demonstrations

The protestors have recently renewed and rebuilt the tents, showing that their concerns are increasing and they are once more preparing for another wave of protests, holding slogans such as “promise the revolution will be back.”

Protestors have turned the tents to real room built with bricks, which also has electricity and air conditioner to make their place comfortable as the warm Iraqi summer is approaching. Building such rooms out of bricks show the importance of the square as well as support and optimism to continue protesting, Mohammed Haassan, a tent protestor said.

Jinan Kadhim, a woman activist, has protested at the square with her friends and told KirkukNow that, “the protestors reject the government of Mustafa al-Kadhimi because it was formed based on political parties’ power sharing agreements and lacks the requirements the protestors announced, that the government should have been formed without of the participation of the current political blocs.”

The protestors reject the government of Mustafa al-Kadhimi because it was formed based on political parties’ power sharing agreements

She revealed that they do not have confidence in Kadhimi’s government because he was leading a high security institution, adding that “he was involved in the murder and injury of the protestors and has not revealed the identity of the suspects.”

Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the current Iraqi prime minister, was the director of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service from 2015 until April 9, 2020, when he was named to form the government by the Iraqi president.

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Dhi Qar, a worker is building a brick room at the Habubi square in the city of Nasiriya, 2020. Photo: Ali Nasri 

Protestors are on standby

The protestors are consistently observing the political dynamics and have their firm beliefs on the situation and the future of the demonstrations, discussing the government moves to address their demands is among the hot topics at their evening gatherings. In the end, they all agree that they will continue their resistance and will not compromise on their demands.

“Insisting on the demands of the protestors, after the end of the coronavirus, is a reaction to the lack of the government’s response to our demands. They are pursuing the politics of wasting time and are not taking our demands into consideration whatsoever, and the new government has not taken real steps to ensure the Iraqi streets,” Lawyer and activist Ahmad Zuhir said.

Lack of justice and escaping from accountability

The families of the killed protestors occasionally organize protests and issue joint statements in which they ask the federal government to hold people accused of killing their sons and daughters accountable and prosecute them, adding that the rights of the families have to be fulfilled by the Iraqi Martyrs Foundation.

The number of protestors who lost their lives in the demonstrations in Dhi Qar has reached over 100, and another thousand were injured and became disabled.

Abbas Abadi, a father a killed protestor, said that he still mourns the death of his son, who had three children and the government has been carless: it neither punished the murderer of his, nor did it compensate and help his three children, revealing that his mother cries for his killed son from morning to evening.

Several assassinations of the Nasiriya protestors have been recorded, which was committed outside of the Habubi square. Azhar Shamari was the latest protestor to be assassinated in front of his house by unknown gunmen.

Wesam Kadhim, a friend of Azhar Shammari, told KirkukNow that, “Azhar was one of the bravest protestors during the demonstrations. He was always speaking loudly and was sharing videos, which showed the demands of the protestors, condemned violence and promoted medical instructions aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.”

“The voice of the activist scared those who did not want the protests to continue… then, unknown gunmen in a terrorist attack shot him to death and the government and the security authorities did not investigate to find the murderers.”

Unknown gunmen in a terrorist attack shot him to death

The protestors doubt the current government’s steps

 The decision that was made by al-Kadhimi’s government to release all the detained protestors was not welcomed by the demonstrators in Nasiriya, demonstrators at the Habubi square claimed.

The protestors occasionally march to the Habubi square to show their resistance; despite that fact the Iraq has been under strict measures enforced nationwide to contain the coronavirus. The protestors still block streets such as poplar Idara Mahalya roundabout to raise their concerns.

Wail Hassan, a protestor, said that, “we want our voices to be heard and to prove that the protestors are energetic and that we have not given up, contrary to what federal government expects.”

The coronavirus

“The coronavirus has become a wall that the government hides behind not to see our demands,” Muhsin Jasm said, “the continuous speech on the virus and its consequences has created an opportunity for the government to carelessly makes plans, reach political agreements, and attempt to dissolve the protests, which will never happen.”

The coronavirus has become a wall that the government hides behind not to see our demands

Activist Wisam Ali believes that the recent moves of the government have caused disappointments and created doubts, adding that the moves are aimed at “addressing the security issues, and moving away from the protests square, which is considered a strong base for the success of the government and to once more control power and put Iraq on the right path.

“Neglecting the protestors and trying to satisfy the political parties and blocs will again result in the reemergence of stronger protests than before. The government should address the demands of the protestors.”

Neglecting the protestors and trying to satisfy the political parties and blocs will again result in the reemergence of stronger protests than before

The city of Nasiriya has seen administrative and security upheavals since the spark of the protests in October 2019, ranging from the closure of the government institutions to burring down their buildings.

Three governors and six general police directors were replaced. The latest governor and police director are Nazm Waili and Hazm Waili, respectively, but the city is yet to be stable due to the quick changes in the most powerful administrative positions of the city.

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Dhi Qar, women protestors call for the amendment of the electoral laws and a date for early elections, 2020. Photo: Ali Nasri 

Kadhim Waili has been appointed as the new governor based on a decree issued by the former prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

Nazm Waili, in press conference, promised to improve the situation in the province and insisted that would he perform his duties in accordance with the rule of law and the constitution, despite the doubts of numerous political parties on him.

Also, the general police director, Hazm Waili, claimed that, “I will work to protect the square of the peaceful protestors and will prevent violence between the protestors and the security forces through the withdrawal of the violent forces to outside of the city and restricting their duties to protect the detainees.”

“I will work to protect the square of the peaceful protestors and will prevent violence between the protestors and the security forces

Meanwhile, he also promised to investigate into the killings of protestors with the aim of bringing back rights to the families of the protestors and showing his goodwill in order to ease the pressure of people and the political parties on the province.

While such promises have been made, the protestors are on standby at the Habubi square to again exert their influence on the federal government to address their demands.

What is important to them is that they are ready to mass protest once more and have already started the preparations for their stay at the square during the Iraqi warm summer.

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