Iraqi protesters rally after arson attacks
Crowds of demonstrators rushed to the 2 local headquarters of pro-Iran militias and torched them
Diwaniyah, Iraq - Iraqi anti-government protesters again hit the streets on Wednesday, angered by an activist’s death and an attempt on the life of a popular TV satirist.
The latest rallies in Baghdad and cities including Basra and Karbala came after a night of unrest that saw protesters torch the headquarters of two pro-Iran militias in the country’s south.
The demonstrators have rallied for almost three months to demand the ouster of the entire political class that has run the oilrich yet poverty-ridden country in the aftermath of the 2003 USled invasion which overthrew Saddam Hussein.
The mostly youthful activists accuse Iraq’s leaders of enriching themselves, mismanaging the economy and being beholden to powerful neighbour Iran, an influential actor in Iraqi politics.
Passions were inflamed when popular TV satirist Aws Fadhil was targeted on Tuesday by unknown assailants, with three bullets hitting his car.
Fadhil posted footage of the bullet holes on social media and declared, ‘ They are targeting those who support the revolution, to silence them ... But we are continuing our revolution’.
He added that ‘we have already achieved a goal’, referring to a parliamentary vote on Tuesday to approve an electoral reform law, in line with the demands of the protesters.
Lawmakers will from now be elected in first-past-the-post contests within electoral districts, rather than through a complex system using provincial party lists and proportional representation. Constituencies will also be redrawn, though it was unclear how and critics feared the new boundaries could be biased toward major parties and tribal groups.
Despite the reform steps, protesters again rallied on Wednesday - including in the city of Diwaniyah, where they marched under a large Iraqi flag to mourn a prominent activist, Thaer al Tayeb. A suspicious explosion hit Tayeb’s car on December 15, badly wounding him and fellow activist Ali al Madani, in Tayeb’s hometown 200km south of Baghdad.
After Tayeb’s death in hospital was announced on Tuesday, crowds of demonstrators rushed to the two headquarters of proIran militias in Diwaniyah and torched them.
First they set fire to the building of the powerful Badr organisation, run by the parliamentary head of the pro-Iran paramilitaries, Hadi al Ameri.
Then they burnt the headquarters of Assaib Ahl al-Haq, a group whose head Qais al Khazali is subject to sanctions by the United States.
Protesters also blocked roads with burning car tyres in the southern city of Basra.
A view of the anti-government sit-in at Tahrir Square in Baghdad on Tuesday