The Iraqi People Rise Up Against their Khomeiniist Occupiers

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An Iraqi protester flashes the V-sign during a demonstration in Baghdad’s Baladiyat district on Wednesday ( AFP/Getty )
By The Free Iranian Staff
This report is constantly updated; please scroll down for all the latest additions

 

This past week has seen an eruption of popular revolt on the streets of Iraq, as everyday Iraqis, after months of simmering tensions, are standing up to the interference in, and exploitation of, their country by the Tehran regime, its IRGC-Qods Force, and their Shi’a militia proxy forces. The Iraqi government, which is influenced and infiltrated by many of Tehran’s agents, has forcefully and bloodily tried to suppress the protests. As of Saturday October 5th, the casualty toll is 93 dead and 4,000 injured.

Several recent incidents had brought Tehran’s brazen meddling in Iraq to the forefront of popular Iraqi rage. The Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, had said in a TV interview that Iran would target the United States in Iraq if the United States threatened Iran, which Iraqis interpreted as a threat to their lives. There were also reports that two Iraqi diplomats were arrested in the Iranian city of Mashhad, and their consulate there closed, for no stated reason. In August, an Iraqi woman visiting Iran was beaten by a police officer in the Mashhad airport. Seeing these developments, the son-in-law of Ayatollah Sistani, the highest-ranking Shi’a cleric in Iraq (and the world), Mohammad Reza Sistani, told Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force, that if Iran continues to deal with Iraq that way it has, the Iraqi people would revolt. Sistani is known for preserving his independence from Tehran’s mullahs, and for defending Iraq’s sovereignty.

The immediate cause of the protests, however, was the reassignment of Iraqi Lieutenant-General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a popular war hero who, as deputy commander of the Counterterrorism Service helped drive Daesh (the Islamic State) out of Iraq in 2017. Al-Saadi was known to be opposed to the Tehran-back Shi’a militias, and his being shifted to a desk job was perceived as having been ordered by Tehran. Instead of taking the new position, Al-Saadi resigned, and immediately gave a television interview where he stated that he felt humiliated. Afterwards, on Sunday, September 29th, Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad holding up photos of the general and chanting calls of support for him.

Tuesday, October 1st

Having organized themselves over social media, an initial crowd of 1,000 people gathered this morning in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, to express support for General al-Saadi, but also to protest the Iraqi government’s inattention to the destitution and deep poverty many Iraqis are living in. (Many natural resources, including water, are being shipped to Iran with the Iraqi government’s approval). As the protestors began to march towards the Green Zone, Baghdad’s government center, the police began throwing stun grenades, as well as firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.

As more and more people began joining the protesters, the police began to fire live ammunition, scattering some. Others responded by throwing stones at the police, and waving Iraqi flags above the water cannons. Officials said one protester was killed and dozens were injured. However, former Iraqi parliament member and secretary-general of the Civic and National Forces Coalition, Shirouq Abayachi, who attended the protests, said the number of casualties is much higher. She said the number of those dead has reached more than 20, and the wounded more than 500.

 

Simultaneously, protests also took place in several suburbs in Baghdad, including Sadr City and Shaab, as well as the southern cities of Basra, Najaf, Karbala, and Nasiriyah. One protestor in Nasariyah was also reported killed. It is important to note that these are all predominately Shi’a areas. Formerly seen as supporters of the Tehran regime’s domination of Iraq, Iraqi Shi’as have now come to loath and resent how Tehran has used them to gain power and wealth for itself, while giving them nothing in return. Prominent Shiite clerics Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim expressed support for the protesters. The Parliamentary Opposition Front, which includes members of Hakim’s Wisdom bloc, Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s Nasr coalition, and others, also issued a statement expressing full sympathy with the protesters.

The Iraqi government responded by imposing an immediate curfew, and by blocking the Internet to prevent any videos or reports of the protests from reaching social media.

Wednesday October 2nd

Defying the curfew, thousands of people, apparently leaderless, began amassing near Tahrir Square in the early morning. Many protesters chanted “homeland,” (vatan in Arabic) and shouted slogans against Iran for interfering in Iraq.

Hundreds of heavily armed security forces were deployed, blocking all intersections leading to the square. Groups of protesters continued to come into the streets, some of them calling for the government to be changed. The police again fired tear gas and live ammunition to break up the protests. Officials said three people were killed in Baghdad today. Thick smoke blew over the city as demonstrators set fire to tires and garbage containers. Heavy gunfire occurred intermittently. At nightfall, the protesters closed the road leading to Baghdad’s airport with roadblocks and burning tires, keeping the way into the city open for Iraqis coming in from other parts of their country. Rumors are now spreading among the protestors that the armed men shooting them are not Iraqi police, but actually Shi’a militiamen and IRGC officers wearing Iraqi police uniforms.

Protests occurred in at least seven other provinces. An estimated 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Basra in a largely peaceful protest on Wednesday evening, while protests and clashes were also reported in Najaf, Nasiriyah, Waset, Diwaniyah and other places. In Nasiriyah, four people were reported killed.

Meanwhile, the head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), one of the largest of Tehran’s militias, Falih al-Fayyadh, arrived in Washington today to meet with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Thursday October 3rd

During the middle of the night, an explosion took place in the Green Zone. Officials said two mortar shells were fired near the US embassy but declined to say by whom. Additionally, this night, in Basra, a civil society activist and protest leader was assassinated, along with his wife, in his home, by masked assailants, presumably Shi’a militia fighters.

Protesters continued to assemble and defy the curfew for another day, and were met with intense gunfire, in Baghdad and in many other cities.

At least 4,000 protesters gathered in Baghdad’s Tayaran Square and attempted to march onto Tahrir Square but were met with open fire. This time, the protesters fought back, overpowering a soldier in his armored vehicle, setting it on fire and warning other security forces to stay away from Tahrir square, to where they then marched.

 

In the vehicle, the demonstrators found Iranian passports and ID cards, proving the speculation true that it is indeed the IRGC they are fighting against. Masked fighters were also seen on rooftops and circulating all around Baghdad, shooting at protestors.

In Najaf and Dhiqar, protestors set fire to government buildings.

The total death toll is believed to have reached at least 33. At least five protesters were killed today in Zaafaraniya, a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Three died elsewhere in Baghdad, six in Nasiriyah, two in Diwaniyah, and in Hilla, a woman protestor was hacked to death by Shi’a militiamen bearing axes. The demonstrators are maintaining their resolve, as one put it: “The bullets do not scare us. They do not scare Iraqis. This will all come down over their heads.”

Tehran today closed the Iran-Iraq border crossing at Khosravi. This site has been notorious as a way station by which the IRGC brings weapons and aid to its proxy forces in Iraq, as well as in other countries of the region.

Friday October 4th

Fighting continued at various spots through the night. Four people were killed in the southern city of Amara, and seven people were killed and fifty wounded in Rifae.

In the morning, the protestors reassembled, wearing masks, carrying flags, jumping out of buses and cars. The forces confronting them started immediately shooting to kill, not using tear gas or firing warning shots as they had done on the three previous days. 16 people were killed in Baghdad and 18 in Nasiriyah, today.

Ayatollah Sistani had a statement supporting the protests read during his Friday prayer sermon today. The statement read, entre outre, “Lawmakers hold the biggest responsibility for what is happening.”

Masked militia fighters continued roaming the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, and several cities, attacking whoever came into their line of sight. Iraqi soldiers stationed in Tahrir Square swore that were not firing on the people, and that all of the bullets were coming from the IRGC and Shi’a militias.

Protesters stormed the provincial council in Diwaniyah, in southern Iraq. Dozens were reportedly wounded by gunfire and police/militia forces were also injured after demonstrators threw stones at them.

Faced with mounting casualties and a populace willing to take any risk to come onto the streets, the Iraqi prime minister yielded and said that the curfew would be lifted tomorrow. Opposition leader Moqtada al Sadr demanded that members of parliament immediately resign to show their desire for immediate government change.

The death toll is now said to be 44.

Saturday October 5th

Fighting continued through the night, with deaths increasing. 11 people were killed in Baghdad alone.

The Iraqi Commission for Human Rights said this morning that the death toll was, in fact, 73 people.

Despite the curfew supposedly having been lifted, military forces still attacked protestors travelling to Tahrir Square. According to the protestors, they said Iraqi soldiers tried to stop the “police” from firing, but instead, the police turned on the soldiers and forced them off the streets. It can be presumed from what was revealed on previous days that these police officers were disguised IRGC personnel.

An emergency session of Parliament scheduled for today was cancelled amid the continuing violence. Three political parties announced they would boycott future parliamentary sessions, thus depriving the body of a necessary quorum and placing Iraqi politics at a crisis point.

Masked militiamen attacked several press offices. Al-Arabiya, the Saudi-owned TV station and website, as well as the Kurdish-run NRT and Dajla TV were targeted. All three networks are known to be critical of the IRGC. Other press offices continued to be hit as the day went on.

Fighting continued in the south of the Iraq, and the number of dead increased to 93. In Nasiriyah, a large crowd set the headquarters of three Tehran-linked political parties and the offices of a pro-Tehran Iraqi MP ablaze, while in Diwaniyah the demonstrators once again attacked the provincial council building.

The violence perked up as dark fell. Five more protesters were killed in four Baghdad neighborhoods in Baghdad, while two protesters were killed in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Shula. Two more protesters were killed in the area near Tahrir Square. The death toll is now 100.


Regardless of what happens in the immediate next few days, events in Iraq may reach a crescendo in two weeks when the annual Arba’een holiday occurs (commemorating the martyrdom of the first Shi’a imam Hossein). At the moment, both the Iraqi government and Tehran regime say that there will be all cares taken to ensure the safe flow of Iranian pilgrims to Najaf and Karbala. This will provide a convenient opportunity for the IRGC to infiltrate more fighters and undercover operatives into Iraq. On the other hand, Arba’een has also of late become an occasion for Iraqi Shi’as to demonstrate and express pride in their Iraqi nationhood. As such, this year’s looks to be set up for a gigantic clash. 

Sunday, October 6th 

Demonstrations and clashes continued in Baghdad, beginning, as customary now, when people started assembling in Tahrir Square. Eight people were killed this morning. According to reports from the protestors, members of the police and military are leaving their posts and joining the demonstrations.

Most of the violence during the rest of the day was centered in Sadr City, the impoverished Shi’a neighborhood that is the stronghold of support for its namesake, opposition figure Moqtadr al-Sadr. 300 men were seen injuring themselves by attempting to jump over a wall after armed men wearing police uniforms blockaded their street and began firing at anyone who came outside.

The offices of eight pro-Tehran regime political parties, 51 other buildings, and two police stations were attacked and trashed by the protestors. The casualty toll is now 104 dead, and over 6,100 injured.

According to reports on the ground, hospitals and ambulances are refusing to treat wounded protestors. As a consequence, demonstrators are banding together to create their own mobile health corps.

Saad Maan, Iraq’s Interior Minister, insisted during a press conference today that he ordered the security forces under his control to not shoot demonstrators. He said that the violence was being caused by unnamed “malicious hands.” This testimony adds further confirmation to what Baghdadis have been continually saying these past few days, that the IRGC is the entity responsible for the killings.

Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq’s Prime Minister, proclaimed a program of sweeping social service spending in a speech this evening, in an attempt to sway Iraqis to stop protesting against him.

Monday, October 7th

Clashes continued throughout the night in Sadr City, with at least 15 people dying.

Barham Salih, Iraq’s President, gave a speech this morning calling for violence against protestors to stop, and demanding that the parliament pass reforms to improve the Iraqi people’s living conditions.

Adel Abdul Mahdi spoke on the telephone with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo this afternoon. So far, the US is not taking much of a public position on the ongoing protests.

The Iraqi military stated publicly, for the first time, that excessive force was being used against the protestors. The military’s statement blamed Abdul Mahdi and the police for the severe repression.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s defense minister, arrived in Baghdad today for talks regarding Iraq-Iran and Iraq-US relations. As a key ally of Tehran and its Shi’a proxy forces, Russian interests would be damaged were the protesters to succeed in diminishing Tehran’s influence in their country; hence, their keen interest in preserving the current government in Baghdad.

In Tehran, a spokesman for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claimed that “Iran will always stand by the Iraqi nation and the Iraqi government.” Khamenei also tweeted, predictably, laying the blame for the protests on unnamed and undefined “foreign enemies.”

At the same time, Faleh al-Fayyad, the commander of Hashd al Shaabi, Tehran’s biggest militia force in Iraq, said that his forces would do all within their ability to stop “a coup d’etat or a rebellion.”

The death toll now stands at 109. Meanwhile, the Internet remains offline across much of Iraq.

Tuesday, October 8th

No large protests commenced this morning, signaling what may be just a momentary lull, or that the repression has managed to finally frighten demonstrators enough to keep them home. Smaller demonstrations did occur, though, in various sections of Baghdad.

The Iraqi parliament met today, the first session in over a week, in an effort to display that the Iraqi government machinery was still working as usual. In some ways, the government seemed to be easing up on the crackdown. Internet access was restored after one week, and the Green Zone was reopened to the public. The Internet was then suddenly blocked again, after only a few hours.

The Shi’a militias, however, and the Iraqi police, are taking advantage of the respite to arrest anyone they can find who had posted news of the protests on social media.

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