Iraqis hold biggest protests yet despite 255 killed so far

A month ago I wrote about the protests that were taking place in Iraq. At the time it looked like there was an Iranian-led crackdown taking place which involved firing live ammunition into crowds. Today, the Associated Press reports that despite an increasing death toll which now stands at 255, Iranians staged the largest protest yet:


Tens of thousands of Iraqis massed in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Friday in the biggest demonstrations since anti-government protests erupted a month ago, defying security forces that have killed scores of people and harshly criticizing Iran’s involvement in the country’s affairs.

The square and the wide boulevards leading into it were packed with flag-waving protesters, as security forces reinforced barricades on two bridges leading to the heavily-fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. The protesters want sweeping change to the political system established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, which they blame for widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.

Protesters are increasingly focused on Iran’s influence. They blame Iran for the violent crackdown:

Many protesters directed their rage at Iran, which emerged as a major power broker after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and has close ties to powerful political parties and state-backed militias that were mobilized to battle the Islamic State group but have now become an imposing political faction.

Videos circulated online of a group of protesters holding a poster showing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the head of its elite Quds force, Gen. Qassim Soleimani, with their faces crossed out. The video, which showed protesters beating the poster with their shoes, appeared to have been filmed Thursday in Tahrir Square. On Friday, protesters marched over an Iranian flag painted on the pavement with a swastika added to it.


It’s worth noting that the belief Iran is behind the crackdown is pretty well supported at this point. In an earlier story, the AP reported that Iran’s Gen. Qassim Soleimani showed up in Iraq one day after the protests began:

The day after anti-government protests erupted in Iraq, Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani flew into Baghdad late at night and took a helicopter to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where he surprised a group of top security officials by chairing a meeting in place of the prime minister…

“We in Iran know how to deal with protests,” Soleimani told the Iraqi officials, according to two senior officials familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the secret gathering. “This happened in Iran and we got it under control.”

That pushback on Iranian influence was given some additional support by Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who said today, “No person or group, no side with a particular view, no regional or international actor may seize the will of the Iraqi people and impose its will on them.”

Power has been cut in parts of Tehran and the internet has been shut off, but there’s some video of the protests available on social media.

Here’s the Iranian flag with a swastika painted over it:


More anti-Iranian protests:

Finally, here’s a recent news clip on the protests which reviews how they began a month ago as well as what they’ve become now.

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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 19, 2024