On Saturday, anti-Iraqi demonstrators defied the closure procedures and the threat of violence to hold demonstrations in several Iraqi cities, during which new clashes with security forces resulted in the death of a protestor in Kut, while protesters in Nasiriyah chanted slogans condemning the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr.
Tensions escalated in several Iraqi cities, on Saturday, following clashes between demonstrators, activists of the protest movement that began about a year ago, and supporters of Sadr.
Al-Sadr had invited his supporters to demonstrate, on Friday, to demonstrate the strength of his political movement, to which tens of thousands of people responded to it in Baghdad and other cities.
In the southern city of Nasiriyah, anti-government activists accused Sadr supporters of shooting them and burning their tents at their main gathering place in Al-Haboubi Square late Friday.
And medical sources told France Press that as of Saturday morning, seven people were killed, five of them with gunfire, and at least sixty others were wounded.
A large demonstration took place from Haboubi Square on Saturday afternoon in honor of those who lost their lives in the violence a year ago.
Protesters marched from the square to the Zaytoun Bridge, holding symbolic coffins.
During a Ramzi funeral held for the victims in Nasiriyah, hundreds marched in the city center carrying empty coffins covered with the Iraqi flag, and pictures of the victims of the attacks that took place on Friday, chanting slogans condemning Sadr, including “There is no god but God, Muqtada is the enemy of God.”
– Montazer Abdel Karim (@ makbh9) November 28, 2020
Nasiriyah is a major stronghold of the anti-government protest movement that began in October 2019. The protesters accuse the authorities of corruption, impiety and dependence on Iran.
Video footage released by activists on Saturday showed that plainclothes operatives fired light weapons at protesters in Nasiriyah during Friday’s clashes, in front of the Iraqi security forces, who did not act.
– Yasser Eljuboori (@YasserEljuboori) November 28, 2020
Tension also prevailed in the city of Amarah, with tight security measures taken, while violence took place on Saturday afternoon in the city of Kut. A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that a protester was killed and three others were wounded during clashes with security forces.
Youth of Change # Iraq (@YcIraq) November 28, 2020
The authorities imposed new restrictions on movement in Kut at dawn on Saturday. Police used tear gas canisters in an attempt to evacuate the protest square in the city and remove tents.
Anger at Al-Kazemi
The violence coincided with the one-year anniversary of one of the bloodiest incidents since the beginning of the protest movement in Iraq.
More than 30 people were killed in violence related to the protests at Zaitoun Bridge in Nasiriya on November 28, 2019.
That incident sparked a widespread wave of anger in Iraq and contributed to pushing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign.
The new Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi extended his hand to the demonstrators, as he sought to fulfill one of their most important demands by approving parliamentary elections in June 2021.
The elections will be held according to a new law. Instead of voting on the lists, voting will take place on individuals and in narrower constituencies. However, most observers expect to delay the polling date by a few months at least.
But the protesters in Nasiriyah chanted slogans expressing their anger at Al-Kazemi, on Saturday. Despite the imposition of a curfew in the city on Friday evening, angry demonstrators gathered in Al-Haboubi Square since Saturday morning, and their number increased during the day.
Some carried a banner bearing the pictures of Al-Kazemi and Abdul-Mahdi, reading “Two sides of the same coin.”
The former Sadrist official in Nasiriyah, Asaad Al-Nassiri, called on the prime minister to step down.
Al-Nasiri said in a tweet on Twitter, “Submit your resignation, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, have mercy on yourself and serve Iraq with that.”
Al-Kazemi has moved the CTS at the time on the basis of releasing the kidnapped Sajjad! What is he doing now, after what happened on Al-Haboubi Square today with the blood that bled ?! Note that Nasiriyah is preparing tomorrow for the massacre of Jamil Al-Shammari! Submit your resignation, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, have mercy on yourself and serve Iraq with that.
– Asad Nasiri (@asaadalnaseri) November 27, 2020
The police were not present in Al-Haboubi Square, but a security source told France Press that security forces were deployed on the outskirts of the city to prevent entry to non-residents of Nasiriyah.
The authorities sacked the police chief of Dhi Qar, whose center is Nasiriyah, opened an investigation into the accidents and imposed a curfew.
However, no high hopes are placed on the official investigation, as families of victims of last year’s violence are still calling for justice.