Iraqi se­cu­rity forces’ cam­paign of fear takes heavy toll on defiant pro­test­ers

The National - News - - NEWS - PESHA MAGID Bagh­dad

In the mid­dle of my peo­ple and fam­ily, I sleep with fear and ter­ror that any mo­ment they could en­ter and kill us MUAMAL AL SUMARI Stu­dent or­gan­iser

Dr Ahmed Tamimi was go­ing home af­ter a long day spent treat­ing peo­ple wounded dur­ing Mon­day’s protests.

As he ap­proached his car, a man walked up to him and said that there was a woman who needed help.

Dr Tamimi fol­lowed the man into an al­ley where two masked men tried to force him into a car be­fore he man­aged to flee.

“There have been a lot of events like this from in­fil­tra­tors who do not want us to treat the [wounded],” he said.

As Iraq’s protests en­tered a sec­ond month, mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces have tar­geted demon­stra­tors with a cam­paign of ar­rests, threats and forced dis­ap­pear­ances.

Many demon­stra­tors in Bagh­dad told The Na­tional they faced threats; two peo­ple said they had been tor­tured for tak­ing part in the protests.

Qasem Al Abadi, a blog­ger, said the govern­ment wanted “to keep ev­ery­one away from [the protests], to keep them dis­ori­ented and scat­tered”. Although crowds have thinned out since Oc­to­ber 25, Tahrir Square is full of tents, medics and tuk-tuks. But demon­stra­tors are wor­ried about in­fil­tra­tors com­ing to protests wear­ing civil­ian clothes to track and harm them.

Mr Al Abadi said he would stay in the square un­til pro­test­ers’ de­mands were met.

How­ever, two of his friends have since fled the coun­try af­ter be­ing ar­rested and tor­tured.

“One was tor­tured be­cause he was kid­napped by a mili­tia. The other one told me he was ar­rested by a govern­ment force, quizzed for a cou­ple of hours and then they re­leaed him.”

The ar­rests, kid­nap­pings and tor­ture have cre­ated an at­mos­phere of fear. Many now say they feel less safe at home than they do in the square.

“Tahrir is safe for us,” said Muamal Al Sumari, a stu­dent or­gan­iser who has re­ceived sev­eral threats.

“They can’t take us from the heart of free­dom but they can take us from Sadr City.”

Mr Al Sumari said the threats had taken a men­tal toll on him.

“I used to sleep heav­ily, but now I sleep very lightly,” he said. “In the mid­dle of my peo­ple and fam­ily, I sleep with fear and ter­ror that any mo­ment they could en­ter and kill us.”

Sara Ab­dul Karim said that her mother calls her con­stantly dur­ing protests and of­ten begs her to leave.

But Ms Ab­dul Karim said that the risks did not frighten her.

“When I go home I miss here; I miss my fam­ily [while at the protests]. I’m telling my friends I feel like my heart and my soul is there, [so] I can­not go home. This is putting us all to­gether. We all want one thing.”

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