Saturday, February 26, 2011

Maliki cracks down on intellectuals

Iraqi security forces detained about 300 people, including prominent journalists, artists and lawyers who took part in nationwide demonstrations Friday, in what some of them described as an operation to intimidate Baghdad intellectuals who hold sway over popular opinion.

On Saturday, four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest of thousands at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.

"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussan al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."

The Iraq protests were different from many of the revolts sweeping the Middle East and North Africa in that demonstrators were calling for reform, and not to get rid of the government. Their demands ranged from more electricity and jobs to ending corruption, reflecting a dissatisfaction with government that cuts across sectarian and class lines.

Yet the protests were similar to others in that they were organized, at least in part, by middle-class, secular intellectuals, many of whom started Facebook groups, wrote and gave interviews supporting the planned demonstrations.

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From yesterday's protests

Friday, February 25, 2011

Iraqi day of rage

Updates and videos here on Facebook (links in Arabic)

On Twitter #Iraq, #iq4c and #Feb25

On Youtube here and here

Updates from the Voices of Iraq news agency:

- The final count of casualties resulting from Friday’s demonstrations in Mosul city is five deaths and 15 wounded, according to a local security source in Ninewa.

- Thirty-nine policemen were wounded in protests in Basra on Friday as security officials announced a curfew in the southern Iraq province until 06:00 a.m. Saturday, a police source said.

- Sixteen demonstrators in Falluja were wounded in random shooting by security forces after they stormed a government compound in the city

- An official in the Thi-Qar Provincial Council on Friday accused “Baathists” of enraging the protesters, noting security forces arrested three of the dissolved party who were among the demonstrators.

- Hundreds of citizens in Kut staged on Friday a massive demonstration in front of the local council, calling for better services and hold corrupt officials accountable. “The gathering, most of them are young men, raised banners accusing officials of stealing oil revenues and criticizing bad services in the province,” Fadel Aanied, a protestor, told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

- Five protestors were wounded in clashes with security forces after an attempt to storm the local council in Soliman Bek district, northeast of Salah al-Din, a source from the operations command said on Friday.

- Protestors on Friday stormed the Ninewa provincial council, while others raised Iraqi flags on its roof.

UPDATE: Konfused Kid has a new blog post

Updated Iraqi blogs here

Video of demonstrators knocking down concrete blocks on the bridge leading from Tahrir square to the Green Zone

11 killed in Iraq protests

Iraqi's constitution guarantees the right of peaceful demonstration and freedom of assembly so why is Maliki acting like neighboring despots and ordering security forces to fire upon protesters? Why is he detaining journalists?

Iraqi officials say at least 11 people have been killed and dozens injured in a day of violent clashes across the country between security forces and demonstrators.

At least nine demonstrators were killed in separate clashes in three northern Iraqi cities during what was described as a "Day of Rage." In the western Anbar province at least two people were killed as security forces and demonstrators battled.

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Friday to vent their anger at government corruption, a lack of services and unemployment in the largest outpouring of anger since the protests began sweeping the Middle East.

In the capital of Baghdad, demonstrators trying to cross a bridge battled security forces and knocked down concrete barriers.

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Demonstrations turned violent across Iraq on Friday, as protesters burned buildings and security forces fired on the crowds.
Multimedia

Thousands of Iraqis demanding better government services took to the streets in at least 10 cities, from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north, despite attempts by the government and by top Shiite leaders to head off the protests .

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki made a televised speech on Thursday urging Iraqis not to gather, warning that insurgents would use the opportunity to carry out attacks. Security officials in Baghdad banned all cars from the streets until further notice.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Maliki: Friday protests organized by Saddamists and al-Qaeda

Maliki's scare tactics won't work with Iraqis anymore and only serve to undermine his credibility. Iraqis are fed up with cronyism, corruption and graft:

Iraq's prime minister warned his people to boycott a planned anti-government protest scheduled for Friday, saying it was being organized by supporters of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave no proof for his assertion in a nationally televised speech Thursday, which echoed similar blanket statements he's made blaming terrorists and Saddam loyalists for an array of problems in the country.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shia clerics say protests should be delayed

Typical reaction from the clerical establishment which wants to see Iraq's Shia remain under its thumb in order to keep their coffers full. These anti-corruption protests sweeping the country from Sulaimaniya to Basrah are a huge threat to those who are impeding progress in the 'democratic' Iraq. Now is the time for Iraqis to come together and demand some action from the bickering politicians they've elected to office.

Iraq’s top Shiite religious leaders, the populist cleric Moktada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called Wednesday for Iraqis to defer their protests, leading many members of the country’s Shiite majority to say they would not join in nationwide demonstrations scheduled for Friday.

Many Sunnis said they still planned to go ahead with the demonstrations, which are being billed as a “day of rage.” But the Shiite withdrawal dealt a significant blow to protest organizers, who had hoped to fill Iraq’s streets with millions of people to call for improved government services.

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Baghdad, Tahrir Square, Feb 23, 2011





Meanwhile at Sulaimaniya's Tahrir Square in Iraqi Kurdistan



(via Baghdad Facebook page)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Around 4,000 demonstrators crowded a square in the centre of the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah on Tuesday, the latest protest against the dominance of two major parties in the Kurdish region.

Iraqi officials have tried to head off nationwide rallies by cutting the pay of ministers and MPs, hiking funds to buy food for the needy and delaying implementation of new import tariffs that would raise prices on goods.

But three young protesters have been killed and more than 100 wounded since Thursday in Sulaimaniyah, the second largest city in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, in demonstrations against corruption and the dominance of two parties.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Iraq scrambled to head off further protests on Monday by cutting politicians' pay and ramping up support for the needy after a teenage demonstrator was killed at a rally in the country's north.

Protests in recent weeks have taken place nationwide, in Iraq's Sunni, Shiite and Kurd areas, railing against corruption, high levels of unemployment and poor provision of basic services such as clean water and electricity.

On Monday, the Iraqi government said it would postpone the implementation of a planned law that would increase import tariffs, a day after MPs cut their salaries and those of ministers and raised funds allocated to a ration card programme that provides food for six million families.

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Libya

Updates on the protests here and here. On Facebook here and videos on Youtube.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Iraqi lawmakers approve 2011 budget

Iraq's parliament gave final approval on Sunday to an $82.6 billion budget for 2011 based on an average oil price of $76.50 per barrel and 2.2 million barrels per day in crude exports.

The deficit was projected at $13.4 billion, although Iraqi officials have said the shortfall would be eliminated if world oil prices remain at current levels. About 95 percent of Iraq's government budget comes from oil revenue.

Budget shortfalls challenge Iraq's ability to rebuild after years of conflict following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

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Gunmen burst into a Kurdish television station in northern Iraq on Sunday, shooting up the equipment and setting fire to the building, apparently in retaliation for footage they aired earlier in the week of a deadly protest, station officials said.

Later Sunday, about 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets of this Kurdish city, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, for a fourth consecutive day to demand political and economic reforms from the ruling parties that control the region. Police and hospital officials said at least four people were injured — two of them by bullets — after Kurdish forces fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

The attack on the television station took place early Sunday morning, when a group of 40 to 50 gunmen wearing military-style clothes stormed the network's headquarters in Sulaimaniyah, spokesman Farhang Hars said. Officials at the station suggested the raid was retaliation for broadcasting footage of a demonstration last week in which two people were killed. The station had only been on air for a few days.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Protests in Kurdistan

Iraqi protesters stepped up their challenges to provincial leaderships throughout the nation on Friday, with more than 1000 demanding that the governor of Basra step down and looters attacking a Kurdish political party headquarters in Sulaymaniyah.

The vandalism in Kurdistan followed violent clashes between government forces and protesters on Thursday in which at least two people were killed.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bahrain

Mahmood has insight on the protests in Bahrain

Unrest in Iraq

Unrest continued to spread in Iraq on Thursday, with new protests erupting in several cities and reports from law enforcement officials that private security guards in Kurdistan killed five people who tried to storm the political offices of the region’s leader.

It was the second time in two days that rock-throwing protesters were killed, though the shooting Wednesday in Kut was by government forces. In most of the demonstrations, people are calling for better government services, including more electricity, but in the eastern city of Kut and in Basra in the south they are demanding the resignation of provincial governors.

The demonstrations, although over long-festering grievances, appear to have been inspired by the unrest elsewhere in the Middle East.

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Iraq is not Egypt or Tunisia. That's why I'm wary of these protests spreading to different Iraqi cities. There is a real potential of a return to the bloody days of 2006 and 2007, especially if the government continues to respond to the protesters with force.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

More protests planned in Iraq

Multiple groups are springing up on Facebook calling for protests to demand reforms, among them No to Silence, Baghdad Won't Be Kandahar, the Blue Revolution and one simply called Join US Soon for the Biggest Ever Youth Sit-In in Baghdad, which initiated the small protest Friday in Tahrir Square.

Another is planned for Monday, but the biggest buzz is building around what has been billed on various Web sites as a "Revolution of Iraqi Rage" scheduled for Feb. 25 in the same square, the city's most prominent public space, just across the Tigris River from the fortified Green Zone.

The groups say their goal is not to overthrow the government - which is still not fully formed after elections nearly a year ago, another source of frustration - but to demand change on multiple fronts, from specifics such as the provision of electricity and jobs to more general issues such as good governance and accountability.

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Iraqis send Valentine to leaders:

Young Iraqis are to hold a Valentine's Day rally on Monday to call on their leaders to love the war-battered country rather than rob its resources, an organiser told AFP.

"We do not want Valentine's Day to be only one day of love but a celebration for reform, democracy, citizenship and freedom," said Karnas Ali, a young engineer.

Three groups under the names of "No Silence," "Baghdad Is Not Kandahar" and "Blue Revolution" are organising the event.

They are using Facebook to call for the demonstration at Baghdad's Tahrir Square, which like in other Arab capitals has the same name as the main venue in Cairo for Egypt's uprising which toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lawyers protest against Iraq government

BAGHDAD — Hundreds of lawyers took to the streets across Iraq on Thursday to protest against widespread corruption and unemployment in demonstrations inspired by anti-government uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

The demonstrations in Baghdad, Karbala, Kut, Ramadi and Amara came a day after Iraq's anti-corruption chief said ministers frequently covered up graft in their departments.

In the capital, around 500 people, mostly lawyers but also including some tribal sheikhs, called for the government to open up so-called "secret prisons" to scrutiny, give detainees access to legal counsel and take stronger measures to fight corruption and boost employment.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Majority of Americans sympathetic to Egypt protestors

Gallup is out with a new national poll on Americans' views of the pro-democracy protests in Egypt. The results show that fear-mongering by some in the media about a post-Mubarak Egypt has apparently not taken hold, with huge majorities expressing sympathy for the protesters:

Overall, are you sympathetic or unsympathetic to the protestors in Egypt who have called for a change in the government?

Very sympathetic 42 | Somewhat sympathetic 40 | Somewhat unsympathetic 6 | Very unsympathetic 5 | No opinion 6

So 82 percent of Americans are sympathetic to the protesters. Among those who are "following the situation in Egypt very or somewhat closely," that number actually goes up slightly, to 87 percent.


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Protests spread to Iraq

The government of Iraq is moving to address a wave of protests there. The largest were on Sunday in Baghdad, Basra, Ramadi and Mosul. Iraqis demanded better electricity and more jobs, as well as a crackdown on crime and corruption. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged to increase monthly food rations. He also rejected any use of violence against the demonstrators.

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Iraqis have been protesting the lack of services and the increasing curtailment of basic freedoms (such as the right to consume alcohol, for example) for months now. This isn't something new.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Nuri al-Maliki will not seek third term

Maliki is suddenly talking about 'change'. Odd.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has said he will not seek a third term in office when his mandate runs out in 2014, state media say.

Mr Maliki returned for a second term after polls last year but endured nine months of wrangling before a unity government could be formed.

He said he would back the insertion of a clause in the constitution bringing in a two-term maximum.


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Not only that, but he gave up half his salary.

As unrest sweeps the Middle East, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he would give up half of his salary, a possible bid to head off simmering discontent.

Iraqis have held sporadic protests against food, power and water shortages and their plight acquired particular attention this month as a wave of anti-government protests rocked the region.

Maliki's media advisor, Ali al-Moussawi, said the premier would forego 50 percent of his $30,000 monthly paycheck to bring his salary closer to other government employees.

"He feels there is a huge difference and says this leads to a kind of caste system in society," Moussawi said. Maliki made the announcement in a statement late on Friday.


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