At Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, one of the students camping there to demand essential services and rights was killed by thugs suspected to be associated with the Ministry of the Interior – a ministry that in the past has often been closely associated with death squads, torture and violence.
Deutsche Welle reports on the attack:
The protests that started peacefully last week have turned increasingly violent. One man died and other eight others were injured after an attack Monday by an alleged pro-government militia on a group of demonstrators trying to spend the night at Baghdad’s Tahrir square.
“They came an hour after the midnight curfew. It was a group of around 60, most of them teenagers, armed with knives and clubs. They all jumped of from hummers belonging to the Interior Ministry,” a witness, who just wanted to be called “Istivan,” told Deutsche Welle.
Bassam Abdul Sattar, another witness, added that Ministry of Defence vehicles cordoning off the area “had left a few minutes before” the attackers arrived.
The injured are being treated privately as they fear “harassment” if they go to hospitals:
Shia cleric Abdulgaith Al Hassan also joined the protesters at the weekend to spend the night in Tahrir square with them. In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Al Hassan told Deutsche Welle that the eight injured were being treated at their houses because they feared harassment by the Interior Ministry’s security forces if they were taken to hospital.
Al Hassan also added that demonstrators were planning to carry the coffin of the victim across Baghdad as a sign of protest in the coming days.
Photos of some of those injured can be viewed here.
After US press virtually ignored the protests in Iraq, tonight CNN posted a report which does not mention the attack or death of the protester in Baghdad, or the deaths in Sulimaniya and Kut earlier, but does repeat the government’s “welcome” of the protest – along with a thinly veiled threat:
On Tuesday evening, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh and Baghdad military operation spokesman Gen. Qassim Atta held a joint news conference regarding the planned demonstrations.
“The Iraqi government welcomes any demonstration by Iraqi people as long as it’s a peaceful demonstration,” said Al-Dabbagh.
However Atta warned Friday’s protesters that there could be possible attacks against them. “Based on our intelligence information, al-Qaeda terrorists, former Baathists and other terrorist groups are planning to attack protesters on Friday by car bombs, suicide bombers and pistols equipped with silencers,” Atta said in the news conference, which was broadcast on Iraqiya state television.
Atta did not mention the danger posed by thugs in Ministry of Interior SUV’s. [cont’d.]
Iraqi protesters share many of the same demands as their brothers and sisters in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen for greater freedom of expression, access to jobs and living wages – but Iraqi demands also focus on services as water, electricity and basic infrastructure, all devastated by the American invasion and occupation. Protesters spoke of their demands:
“I am Shia but I’m Iraqi, not Iranian. We do not want an Islamic Republic like in neighboring Iran. Today we are gathering Shiites, Sunnis Christians … We all share the same problems because we all live in the same country,” said Akram, another demonstrator in Tahrir square. “We want electricity, water and jobs.”
“Our neighbourhood stinks because of sewage problems. Whenever it rains the roads become an infectious quagmire and we have to improvise bridges with stones and wooden boards not to plunge into the ponds of feces,” complained Ayad Hashem, a resident of Baghdad’s Husseiniya district. He added that he often had to cope with just three hours of electricity a day, and sometimes none.
In addition to the slogans denouncing the lack of basic infrastructures and corruption, demonstrators have also protested at the police brutality against several peaceful marches throughout the country, especially in the north.
In the Kurdish north, demonstrations have called for the removal of Barzani and replacement of corrupt officials but have been met by violence with at least one and possibly “more than 10” killed by government forces in the past few days. Iraqi Streets 4 Change has video of these attacks which can be viewed here.
On Tuesday, according to Burhan Aydin at GorillasGuides:
… hundreds of representatives of 22 civic organization in the province of Sulaymaniyah protested today in Park Azadi central province, demanding reforms in the Kurdistan Regional Government, including provision of services and the fight against the corrupt and negligent in government institutions. They also demanded that those responsible be brought to justice.
Neither Obama nor Sec. Clinton have mentioned these protests, not even to express their “concern” about the rights of Iraqis to protest without being killed or threatened.