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Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated in Tahrir and Al-Firdaws Squares in the center of the capital, Baghdad, on the second anniversary of the “October protests” that the country witnessed in 2019.
The demonstrators raised flags and pictures of the victims of the protests, and banners bearing the phrases “We want a homeland, Tishreen is our tent, and the voice of Tishreen will not be silenced.”
The banners carried by demonstrators, including women, read: “When will we see killers behind bars? No to corrupt parties and corrupt politicians.”
On October 1, 2019, large-scale rallies erupted across Baghdad and southern Iraq to protest government corruption.
The violence associated with the protests resulted in the deaths of nearly 600 people, and some were shot with live bullets as they returned home from the demonstrations.
Friday’s demonstrations and the rallies scheduled for Saturday, come ahead of the Iraqi parliamentary elections.
A protester, called Ibrahim, was quoted by AFP as saying that he came to participate “to commemorate the martyrs” and “the massacres committed by the government against peaceful youth.”
Ibrahim, 20, who like many Iraqis prefers not to reveal his full name when talking about politics, added that he will not vote in the upcoming elections.
He stressed that “the elections will reproduce the same corrupt system and the same corrupt parties. Only the names and faces will change.”
In the southern city of Nassiriya, the epicenter of the 2019 protests and where 128 people were killed in related violence, hundreds took part in a march in memory of the victims.
“It is a historic moment to remember the demonstrations and the confrontation with the forces of corruption, and we remember the dead, the criminal behavior and the government’s silence on all this,” said a demonstrator called Ali Shamkhawi.
The 2019 protests, which saw tens of thousands turn out in Baghdad and other cities, have faded in the face of repression and the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since October 2019, dozens of activists have been killed in targeted killings or have been kidnapped, in attacks usually carried out by men on motorbikes in the dead of night.
No one has claimed responsibility for all of this, but the protesters are pointing the finger at pro-Iranian militias linked to the Iraqi government.
Activists and parties claiming to be part of the uprising are boycotting the elections, and observers expect a record drop in voter turnout.
Experts say the same major political blocs will likely dominate the next parliament. But some were optimistic.
A banner was seen at the Baghdad rally, reading “The revolution will spread throughout the country faster than the Corona virus, and there is no vaccine.”