AFP is reporting today: “Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday blasted a ban on public rallies in the Iraqi capital, saying it was ‘undemocratic’ and based on fear of rising protests.
“Iraq’s government announced last week demonstrations would be allowed only at three football stadiums, ostensibly because shopkeepers in the city’s main Tahrir Square complained of losing trade during weekly protests.”
MICHELE NAAR-OBED, cptiraq — at — cpt.org
Michele Naar-Obed is in the northern Iraqi city of Suleimaniya and recently wrote a piece titled “The Least Reported Unarmed Revolution in the Middle East.”
She wrote yesterday: “Following 62 days of continuous protest in Suleimaniya against corruption and tribal rule within the Kurdistan Regional Government, legal permission for the protest has been revoked and a source within the armed Peshmerga forces [Kurdish militias] said the forces were given orders to shoot to kill any demonstrators today….”
Today, she told IPA: “We are living in a military siege. Ten thousand troops are here occupying the city. … Arrests are ongoing. People are being beaten, gassed, and shot at. Now the troops have official permission to shoot in the legs. Yesterday, we heard that they could shoot to kill. This is for anyone that even remotely tries to form a demonstration anywhere. Last night there were official meetings with the U.S., PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has been headed by Jalal Talabani, who is president of Iraq] and [an] opposition party.”
Michele Naar-Obed works with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a human rights organization and has been based in Suleimaniya since 2006.
He said today: “Although Iraqis have been demonstrating in the streets since late February, most of the demands were focused on improving services and fighting corruption. Protests have been intensifying since U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Baghdad earlier this month in what was seen as an attempt to extend the December 31 deadline that requires all the U.S. armed forces to leave Iraq. The deadline was agreed upon in the binding bilateral Security Agreement, and it requires both combat and non-combat forces affiliated with the DoD to leave the country before the end of this year bringing down the number of U.S. armed forces to zero.
“Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets on April 9, which marks the day of the fall of Baghdad under the U.S.-led military occupation, demanding a complete U.S. withdrawal before the end of the year. Tens of thousands of have been staging a sit-in protest in Mosul since, and some Iraqi soldiers and police are joining the protesters in the last few days.
“Considering the recent wave of protests in Iraq and the region, the U.S. government is playing with fire in Iraq. Any attempts to delay or cancel the United States’ complete departure will most likely spark a nationwide revolt against the very unpopular U.S. military presence there.”
For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167