Baghdad: Zidan Al-Rubaie
Hundreds of people demonstrated, on Friday, in Baghdad and the south, to mark the second anniversary of the start of the unprecedented popular protests in 2019, in a move that comes ahead of early parliamentary elections that experts do not expect to bring about a major change.
These elections were supposed to take place on their normal date in 2022, but holding them early was one of the most prominent promises of Mustafa Al-Kazemi’s government, which took power in the fall of the demonstrations in the fall of 2019, when tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the overthrow of the regime.
In the midst of a heavy security presence, the demonstrators, who began marching towards Tahrir Square in the Iraqi capital, the center of the 2019 protests, raised Iraqi flags and pictures of young men killed during the bloody repression of the demonstrations at the time, killing about 600 people and wounding more than 30,000.
The banners also included pictures of activists who were later killed, such as Ihab al-Wazni, head of the protests coordination in Karbala, who was shot dead in May by armed men in front of his house with silencer pistols.
Others held banners reading “When will we see the killers behind bars” and “We want a homeland, we want change”, while the demonstrators are still calling on the government to hold those responsible for the assassinations of activists accountable.
Demonstrators also raised banners reading “Electing the same faces is a massacre for the homeland,” “No, no to corrupt parties, no to corrupt politicians,” and “Do not elect those who killed me.”
In Nasiriyah, where 128 demonstrators were killed in the crackdown and is considered the stronghold of protests in southern Iraq, hundreds commemorated in the highly symbolic Al-Haboubi Square, also calling for the disclosure of those responsible for the killing and kidnapping of activists.
The demonstrator Ali Shamkhawi from the city considered that “these are historical moments in which we remember the protests and confrontations with the forces of corruption, murder and criminal behavior, in front of the government’s silence.”
Since the outbreak of popular protests in Iraq in October 2019, more than 70 activists have been assassinated or attempted assassination, while dozens of others have been kidnapped for short periods.
No party has claimed responsibility for the killings and kidnappings of activists. Ibrahim, a 20-year-old demonstrator, said, “We went out today as peaceful demonstrators to commemorate October 1, the anniversary of the massacre committed by the government against peaceful youth, to commemorate the martyrs and to establish our position and our word.”
Ibrahim stressed, “We will not participate in the elections because it will produce the same corrupt system and the same corrupt parties will return.”