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