Iraqi protesters defiant in face of deadly crackdown

Iraqi protesters defiant in face of deadly crackdown

BAGHDAD — Iraqi protesters said Wednesday that an intensifying crackdown by authorities has been instilling fear and reducing turnout, but said they were remaining defiant and have called for people to return to the street in large numbers later this week.

Protesters told The Associated Press that many felt intimidated by cases of disappearances and arbitrary arrests and had stopped showing up to demonstrations, fearful of retaliation.

“The government is working for itself and not for the people,” said Duraid Salman, 37, an Iraqi baker who has been camped out in Tahrir Square since Oct. 25. He said he bakes bread for 6,000 to 7,000 protesters a day, which he gives out for free.

“The only thing that worries me are the detentions, which hurt our morale,” he said, speaking inside a large tent where he stays, baking with the assistance of several women.

Tahrir Square in central Baghdad has emerged as an epicenter of the anti-government protests. At least 320 people have died and thousands wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when angry protesters took to the streets in the thousands outraged by perceptions of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor delivery of basic services, including electricity cuts, despite the country’s vast oil wealth.

The protesters have so far rejected government proposals for economic and constitutional reforms and are calling on the entire political leadership to resign, including the Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

In a phone call with Abdul-Mahdi the previous evening, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he “deplored the death toll among the protesters as a result of the Government of Iraq’s crackdown and use of lethal force, as well as the reports of kidnapped protesters,” according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.

Demonstrations have been largely limited to Tahrir Square since Iraqi security forces began implementing tougher measures to suppress the demonstrations.

Still, the protesters said they are calling for over two million people to take to the streets this coming Friday.

“I have nothing to fear,” said Um Abdullah Taha, a 43-year-old government employee. “The number of demonstrators may have diminished, but this generation will not die.”

Iraqi authorities began clamping down on public demonstrations last week by pushing protesters back from three bridges spanning the Tigris River toward the fortified Green Zone. That’s where the seat of government and a host of foreign embassies are located.

Protesters in Tahrir Square appeared to be more organized on Wednesday, having set up a network of tents offering food and medical services.

To tackle protester demands, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq proposed a roadmap which included anti-corruption and electoral reform measures, which won the backing of influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

___

Associated Press writer Samya Kullab in Beirut contributed.

Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press

Iraq protests

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is now on the path to grant degrees. (Photo by MURRAY CRAWFORD/Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Problems with vagrancy in downtown Red Deer were behind a push to build a 24/7 shelter in the city. Nearly a year after a $7 million commitment from the province, there is little movement on this "top priority" project. (Advocate file photo).
Little progress on ‘top priority’ 24/7 homeless shelter project for Red Deer

No details can yet be provided by the city or province

Blackfalds RCMP are investigating two suspicious fires that happened in Lacombe County in November. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta man charged for exposing himself in public

The man was charged under similar circumstances in 2019

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman: ‘Even as we grieved, we grew.’

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman: ‘Even as we grieved, we grew.’

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday Jan. 20, 2021. Miller is criticizing the Quebec premier's refusal to exempt homeless people from the provincewide curfew following the weekend death of Raphael "Napa" Andre, a 51-year-old Innu man found dead in a portable toilet not far from a homeless shelter he frequented. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous services minister says Quebec premier should show ‘humanity’ to homeless

Indigenous services minister says Quebec premier should show ‘humanity’ to homeless

People work out at an outdoor gym in downtown Montreal, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. A new study links the fitness level of Canadian children to that of their parents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
StatCan study finds some correlation between child and parent fitness levels

StatCan study finds some correlation between child and parent fitness levels

Experts say pandemic fuelling apparent spike in eating disorders among adolescents

Experts say pandemic fuelling apparent spike in eating disorders among adolescents

Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association, is shown in a handout photo. The head of the Ontario Medical Association says dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is spreading on social media among all age groups. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Vaccine myths running rampant online among all age groups, Ontario docs say

Vaccine myths running rampant online among all age groups, Ontario docs say

CannTrust employees work with cannabis products at their packaging and extraction facility in Vaughan, Ont., on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. CannTrust Holdings Inc. says it will create a $50-million trust to settle claims from class action lawsuits filed after the company was found growing cannabis in unlicensed rooms two years ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
CannTrust to create $50M trust to settle lawsuits, signs restructuring agreement

CannTrust to create $50M trust to settle lawsuits, signs restructuring agreement

Eldar Saetre CEO of Equinor speaks as he gives the company quarterly capital market update in London, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Alastair Grant
Norwegian oil company Equinor completes oilsands exit by selling Athabasca Oil shares

Norwegian oil company Equinor completes oilsands exit by selling Athabasca Oil shares

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem takes part in a news conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on December 15, 2020. Canada's central bank will update its economic forecast for the country that will offer a window when it expects a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to take hold. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Vaccination efforts key to economic recovery, BoC says as it keeps rate on hold

Vaccination efforts key to economic recovery, BoC says as it keeps rate on hold

Most Read