Iraq: Internet switched off and at least 33 killed as protests break out

Iraq is suddenly looking a bit like Hong Kong. But in Baghdad police were quick to open fire on protesters with live ammunition as the government shut down the internet to stop the flow of information:


Anti-government demonstrators defied an around-the-clock curfew in Baghdad and other cities Thursday as Iraqi security forces used live ammunition and tear gas during a third day of unrest that has left 33 people dead, most of them protesters.

Authorities cut internet access in much of Iraq since late Wednesday in a desperate move to curb the rallies. By Thursday afternoon, the curfew was extended to three other southern provinces…

Middle East expert Jennifer Cafarella, with the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said the immediate and widespread use of force against protesters in multiple provinces demonstrates “that the security forces are overwhelmed by the volume and rate of spread” of the rallies.

The protests began Tuesday and appear to spread very quickly. The source of the protester’s anger is economic more than political, though protesters are calling for the ouster of the current government:

The latest violence began as sporadic protests earlier in the week with demonstrators demanding an end to government corruption, nationwide unemployment and a crippling lack of basic services such as electricity and clean water…

Some of the protesters’ demands include the “fall of the regime” and demonstrators have set government and political party buildings ablaze in two southern provinces.


In addition, Al-Monitor reports there is a strain of anti-Iranian influence to the protests, pointing to several incidents in recent weeks which fueled public anger:

Many protesters called for a homeland, or watan, in Arabic, and some also shouted slogans against Iran for interfering in Iraqi matters and supporting failed parties in Iraq…

Last week, the prime minister dismissed the deputy commander of Iraq’s counterterrorism bureau, Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, provoking anger and discontent among Iraqis. Many protesters carried photos of Saadi at the protests.

Saadi’s dismissal caused discontent in several political parties, including the National Wisdom Movement, the Sadrist movement and Osama al-Nujaifi’s Iraqi Decision Coalition, raising suspicions over Iranian interference in his dismissal, as he was independent of Iranian proxies in Iraq, whether in the Iraqi army or the PMU.

In another incident, the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, said in a TV interview with Dijlah channel last week that Iran would target the United States in Iraq if the United States threatened Iran. Iraqis took this as clear Iranian interference in Iraqi matters.

Because the internet is down today, video of what is happening is limited. In this clip from yesterday you can hear gunshots which cause a large mass of protesters to turn and run:


In this more recent video, protesters burn a police vehicle:

This Al Jazeera report contains some good interviews. One man says Iraqis are begging on the streets and when they come out to protest they are being shot at by security forces from Iran.

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John Stossel 12:40 AM | April 12, 2024