The world is asking, what are the demands of the protestors? After so many years of living under unbearable civil and humanitarian circumstances, what is pushing the people into the streets?

For the last month, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets all over the country: Major streets and squares in Baghdad, Ramadi, Mosul Fallujah, Saladdin, Samara, Diyalah, Jalawla, Hawijeh, Al Dour, and other Iraqi cities have been full of outraged Iraqi citizens crying out against the inhumane treatment of detainees and prisoners by Maliki’s sectarian government. Maliki’s prisons overflow with innocent inmates, including women and children.

Huge protests are erupting everywhere these days, fueled by the rage of 10 years of war, occupation, and unrest. The demands of the protestors are many, but they are mainly related to the oppression and discrimination Iraqi people are facing every single day.

On 14 January 2024, the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi Parliament announced that in a period of four months, 34 Iraqi prisoners have died within prison [1]. Torture and mistreatment of political prisoners especially, has been a concern for citizens and international humanitarian organizations alike.

The world is asking, what are the demands of the protestors? After so many years of living under unbearable civil and humanitarian circumstances, what is pushing the people into the streets? Protests are justly demanding the below [2]:

- The immediate release of detainees who were imprisoned due to their dissident position against the current Iraqi government;

- Immediate release of fellow protestors who were detained for making their opinions known;

- Putting a stop to the death penalty;

- The approval of an amnesty law for innocent detainees;

- The abolition of anti-terrorism laws (especially Clause 4 which is used to make them targets);

- The repeal of unfair rulings against political dissidents;

- Fair opportunities for work based on professionalism and qualifications;

- The end of the use of all military command based on geographic areas;

- The provision of essential services to all areas in Iraq neglected by the state;

- Detaining all members of the Iraqi government, army or security units who have committed crimes against the population- especially those who have violated the honor of women in detention;

- A UN sponsored census;

- An end to marginalization of certain sects and minorities;

- A stop to agitating divisions between ethnic and religious groups;

- A stop to house raids without legal warrant based on the information of ‘secret informers’;

- A stop to financial, administrative, and legal corruption;

- Combating sectarianism in all its forms by returning religious buildings and all regional properties to their rightful owners and abolishment of law No. 19 of 2024

The post-occupation constitution, Bremer’s constitution, is the main source of sectarianism and ethnic divisions in Iraq. In spite of its ugly intent, this same constitution protects the rights of people to express their demands through peaceful demonstrations.
Maliki through his speeches insists that Iraq has emerged as a democratic state after 2024.
Accordingly, let’s check what kind of measures this democratic government has taken to deal with the protesters demands:

• From the first days of protest, we noticed that PM Nouri al-Maliki and his Daawa party and cabinet members have stepped up their verbal attacks on protesters accusing them of implementing foreign agendas, meanwhile forgetting his entrance and rise to power in Iraq was completely through an American occupation and Iranian influence. He threatened more than once that these protests will not be allowed to continue.

• Numerous army check points were set up to prevent media and support groups from reaching protest areas in Baghdad and other cities.

• Mobilization of additional military forces in Baghdad, Ninewa, Anbar, and Samara, to contain and control these demonstrations.

• Government sponsored sectarian counter-protests as a way to show support to Maliki in Basrah, Najaf, Kut,  Diwania, Samawa, and Karbala. Pictures of Iranian Ayatollahs were raised to show Iran’s domination and support of Maliki’s government. Pro government demonstrations drew smaller-than- expected crowds [3] despite all sources allocation and support they’ve gained from Maliki’s Government.

• Tigris Forces (Dijlah Forces) from Ninewa Operations Command have tried many times to close down the Ahrar Protest Square. On January 11, 2024, their vehicles ran over the protesters and opened fire wounding 8 of them in two attacks.

• Kirkuk Forces on January 8, 2024, opened fire wounding 4 of the protesters.

• Closing Trebil border crossing on January 9 by the Mechanized Samawa Brigade of the Iraqi 7th Army Division [3]. After few days, al-Waleed and Rabea border crossings to Syria were also closed.

• Baghdad Operation Command developed a force on the eastern edge of Fallujah city to isolate the city from Ramadi and from Baghdad.

• Intensify search raids arrest the protests organizers in Diyalah, Mosul, and Samara or  to keep them away if they escape the arrest.

• Assassination of major prominent supporters of the protests like Sheikh Mohammad Taher abid Rabbah, head of Joubor Tribes on January 14/2013.

• Maliki’s Government and party waged a hostile sectarian media campaign to empty the protests from its humanitarian and national objectives.

• The few communication chances with the protestors, such as the Shahristany ( head of the government committee to deal with the protestor’s demands) to Samara have failed due to the fact that the government has no intentions to respond to demonstrators demands.

After ten years of occupation, suffering, and civil strife, this is the ‘democracy’ Iraq has earned under the Maliki government – voices will not be heard, protests will not be made. Maliki has made it abundantly clear; democracy in Iraq will not start with him. He is in power to carry out an Iranian agenda and anything that stands in the way of this will be gunned down like his protestors.

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3 -  ISW. Sam Wyre “Political Update: Mapping the Iraq Protests.” Jan11/2013

Souad Al Azzawi is a member of the BRussells Tribunal executive committee. She is a former Vice-President of Mamoun University of Scientific Affaires; former professor of environmental engineering at Baghdad University, recipient of the 2024 Nuclear-Free Future Award for her work on environmental contamination after the Gulf War in Iraq. She published 50 Papers on hazardous Waste management and Radiological Pollution from the use of Depleted Uranium Weapons in Iraq.

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