Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
Protest in Baghdad. Image source: VOA

Crisis in Iraq continues. Anti-government protests in Baghdad exploded into violence Friday afternoon as thousands of demonstrators defied heavily armed guards and concrete barriers and charged into the International Zone.

Security forces unloaded heavy machine-gun fire, stun grenades and tear gas as the crowds surged forward. But even as some protesters were forced back, others began to arrive, charging their way toward the fight.


“We will kill Abadi!” some shouted as they ran toward the zone. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has come to symbolize the face of Iraq’s failing government.

Some of the protesters broke the security cordon and ran to Abadi’s offices, determined to find him. He reportedly was not there.

As the gunfire continued, dozens of ambulances with sirens blaring raced across the bridge connecting eastern Baghdad toward the entrance of the International Zone to pick up the wounded. It was not clear whether the gunfire was being directed at the protesters or above their heads, or how many wounded there were.

The protests were the culmination of weeks of mounting anger against government corruption and inefficiency, which peaked this week when a series of bombs and suicide bombers exploded in the largely poor Shi’ite area of Baghdad known as Sadr City.

By dusk, most of the gunfire had ended and smoke was blowing across the skyline of the International Zone, also called the Green Zone. But protesters vowed to return, with their own guns.

Cleric’s followers

Many of the protesters were followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shi’ite cleric who has emerged as the leader of the Iraq’s struggling poor and has an almost cultlike following among those frustrated with a government and parliament seen as deeply corrupt and ineffective.

“I will do anything Muqtada asks me to do,” said Mahdi, a commander inside al-Sadr’s so called Peace Brigades.

His nephew Rabah, a policeman in Sadr City, agreed. “We are not afraid of anything because we are with Muqtada al-Sadr,” he said.

“If the government does nothing for us, we will do something,” Rabah added just before the protests erupted. “We want the government to fix the situation inside the parliament and inside Iraq.”

Members of parliament have been struggling to even gather a quorum after al-Sadr and his followers shocked Baghdad three weeks ago by entering the International Zone, storming the parliament and chasing out the lawmakers.

The cleric has demanded that Abadi end a political quota system that guarantees political parties ministerial positions and replace the current government with technocrats.

Interim step fails

Abadi attempted an interim measure by replacing six ministers. It was not enough. The parliament and the political parties could not agree, and the resultant squabbling devolved into a fight for power. The issue has been referred to the Iraqi federal court.

Many protesters have lost all trust in the lawmakers and the government.

“The political fighting here is creating huge problems and is the result of political infighting for personal gain, not out of concern for Iraq,” said Nabil Nouraddin, a human rights activist. “Politicians are not protecting their people. They are just out for themselves.”

But al-Sadr’s militiamen are not the only ones in Baghdad’s streets.

The Badr corps, one of the strongest militias in the umbrella group of Shi’ite armed militias known as Hashd al-Shaabi, has rejected al-Sadr’s attempts to force change and has flexed its muscle in response.

Badr corps members now protect their own neighborhoods and reject al-Sadr’s push.

“We need to follow the political process, the laws. Any emergency government or any government other than the current government, in our opinion, would be a disaster,” Hashd al-Shaabi spokesman and former Badr brigade leader Kareem Nouri told VOA.


Poster calling for volunteers to join Al Hussein Athar militia, Baghdad, May 18, 2016. Source: VOA

Nouri also rejected the suggestion from some political corners — including from some Sunnis who feel they have lost all power under the Shi’ite-dominated political and security structure — for an emergency transitional government.

Some Iraq analysts see the political struggles as normal growing pains in a country new to democratic processes. But the presence of armed militias loyal to different leaders has turned that process into a tense and highly volatile situation.

Without the militias, “it would be more peaceful, more political and solved much easier, and everybody would be more ready to make concessions,” said Baghdad businessman Husam Gazalee.

The gunfire and surge of protesters raised concerns about the thousands of diplomats and international officials in the Green Zone.

Colonel Steve Warren, an American military spokesman based in Baghdad, said, “We’re fine. Same as last time. They don’t appear interested in us.”

Warren, whose words were relayed to Pentagon reporters from the Baghdad embassy, referred to the large demonstration three weeks ago.

Another U.S. military official said there had been no change to the security posture at the embassy. (VOA)

Related Articles:


Popular

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

This issue will be fixed in an upcoming software update.

Apple has acknowledged an issue where the "unlock with Apple Watch" feature might not work with its new iPhone 13 devices and promised to fix this issue with an upcoming software update. "You might see 'Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch' if you try to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask, or you might not be able to set up Unlock with Apple Watch," the iPhone maker said in the support document.

This issue will be fixed in an upcoming software update. Until the update is available, you can turn off Unlock with Apple Watch and use your passcode to unlock your iPhone 13. To turn off Unlock with Apple Watch, go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode.

Earlier, multiple users found that they cannot unlock their iPhone 13 with the Apple Watch and instead received an error. User Monzilla88 on Reddit first reported the issue to the subreddit r/AppleWatch. They stated that both their iPhone 13 Pro and Apple Watch SE are up to date with the newest iOS and watchOS updates.

"Whenever I try to enable unlock with Apple Watch on my phone I get an error saying "Unable to communicate with Apple Watch," they posted. Monzilla88 claimed that they had tried unpairing and repairing, hard resetting both devices, turning on and off passcodes, but not no avail, the report said. More than 20 other users self-reported the same problem, with others noting that the feature works fine on iOS 15 on older models of iPhone, including the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone X. (IANS/ MBI)


Keep Reading Show less
Wikimedia commons

'Goose' was a common term used for adulterors

The nursery rhyme Goosey Goosey Gander is filled with multiple meanings. It is another one of those rhymes believed to have emerged from the time of great persecution in England during the Reformation. It also holds a contemporary, colloquial meaning.

The original verse goes something like this:

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

If you have the time and patience, the time spent indoors offers the ideal chance to learn new abilities.

Many individuals struggle with psychological distress at home because most of us spend the whole day doing nothing. Being trapped inside our homes may seem inconvenient, but if you have the time and patience, the time spent indoors offers the ideal chance to learn new abilities. Whether you want to transform your body by following a daily routine with the help of millions of tutorials available across platforms, or you want to learn coding, cooking, a new language, here are some skills you can learn from the comfort of your home.

  • A new language: Learning a new language online from the comfort of one's own home is simple and relatively inexpensive, thanks to apps such as Duolingo and Busuu. Gaining knowledge of a new language improves your communication skills. It allows you to communicate with a more significant number of individuals and open new doors, and expand your perspectives. Although most of us cannot travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, do not allow that to stop you from upskilling yourself.

pink alphabet refrigerator magnet lot Gaining knowledge of a new language improves your communication skills. | Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Keep reading... Show less