Iraqi pro­test­ers rally af­ter ar­son at­tacks

Crowds of demonstrat­ors rushed to the 2 lo­cal head­quar­ters of pro-Iran mili­tias and torched them

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

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.

(AFP)

A view of the anti-gov­ern­ment sit-in at Tahrir Square in Baghdad on Tues­day

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