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Demonstrators speak of suppression, killing, kidnapping and arrests in Baghdad

Large demonstrations took place on Tahrir Square, Baghdad, on Tuesday, 25/5. At least one demonstrator was shot dead and many more injured, when security forces opened fire on the crowd. According to eyewitnesses, members of pro-Iran Shia militias entered the square and were involved in the suppression of the protests. The scenes in the square were reminiscent of the beginning of Iarge scale protests in Iraq in October, 2019. These protests were curtailed by the pandemic and may now be reigniting.

Tuesday’s protests were held to denounce the killing of civil society activist Ihab al-Wazni, in Karbala on May 9th, apparently at the hands of a death squad affiliated with the Shia militias. The protests were organized under the slogan ‘Who killed me?’ and protestors carried pictures of al-Wazni. Mecra’s Baghdad correspondent attended the protests and spoke to demonstrators. The three testimonies below were given by individuals participating in the protests. We include also exclusive video and stills footage taken in Tahrir Square on the day.

A blood-drenched flag (MECRA)

Mouri ,worker, age 30, Baghdad.

It's a very clear demand we have today. There are uncontrolled guns in the hand of the militias, and they are continuing to kill activists in public. We have asked the governor of Karbala to punish the one who killed Ihab Al-Wazni but this demand has been ignored. They didn't respond to martyrs families. So, as a result the demonstrations have returned and are increasing.

The demonstrations are intended to push the government to resign and to bring a new one. We came out to punish the ones who killed activists in all Iraqi cities and the government should bring those people to trial. Our message is very clear - reveal the killers, and reveal who is behind and who is ordering the killings. Also, activate the role of the courts, so people gain their rights back. It's very important that people retain their rights by law. The country has many issues, such as sovereignty, provision of services, and so on. But, the most important thingis that people are losing their lives now.

The ones who are killing activists and journalists are the same ones who we are pursuing regarding their role and the services they provide. For example, Al-Wazni was investigating corruption in Karbala hospital, and he opened the door to corruption cases in Iraq against official personnel and other groups. So, they saw that Al-Wazni is dangerous for them and their interests, so they killed him to protect themselves.

These groups are always out there with guns and they are continuing targeting people and they are the only ones permitted to hold weapons. They are responsible for killing demonstrators and activists. The forces that are coming on the streets are supported by Iran and they are taking orders from them.

The continuing of demonstrations will be based on the results we will get and how they will respond to our demonstrations and demands. it will be based on time as well. We will work on it to make continuous demonstration. The executive power of the Iraqi government is responsible for finding the killers. Political parties are acting against the law, and they have armed groups that no one can counter. The political power is behind the militias and other armed groups.

We will continue with our demonstrations and demand until they respond to it. We advise the government not to test us. They need to change.

Demonstrators arrive in Baghdad (MECRA)

Zaina Al-Aabdin, Age 25, undergraduate student, Diwaniya.

I cannot stay at home when I see my friends and relatives are coming out for demonstrations. People were called to come out to make a protest and demonstrate against all these violations – the killing, kidnapping and arrests, so we can't just stay at home and not respond to that.

We want to make all people in the world know why we came out. They should know that people suffer and the misery which has been done by militias and corrupted politicians, if they want to know the reason why we demonstrate. We are here today not only for one demand, but for what Al-Wazni was calling for before he was killed. The demand of today’s demonstration is to reveal the killers of activists and bring them to the court. It's a clearly political campaign of assassinations against activists, who are fighting against corruption. Militias and armed gangs are out of control, and supported by external power. They have a significant role in the government. It's very obvious who is behind the killings and assassinations and we suffer from uncontrolled guns in the hands of militias and other groups. Families have mentioned that militias are behind the killing of their sons such as Ihab Al-Wazni, and these militias are supported and controlled by politicians.

The continuance of demonstrations depends on the government response. We didn't come out for only one reason. On 25th October, (2019)we came out demanding our rights and dignity and as long as there are killings and suppression the demonstrations will be continued. There are three main players responsible for not revealing the name of the criminals, and these are the judicial, legislative and executive power. They are also suspects....They are a part of this crime.

The political system here in Iraq does not represent the Iraqi community but rather the militias and armed groups. There were armed militias in the past, they needed political support to remain on the ground, and they found their political ties and they became strong. They now control the government. They all don't believe in the power of law or politics, but only in guns.

These militias took advantage of the holy Fatwa when IS came (jihad fatwa of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in June 2014 -ed), before which they were just armed gangs and militias. The holy cover protected these militias so they became stronger even more than the government.

We will continue demonstrations and we will not give up. We will see what the future holds for us. I am very tired of demonstrations and the international community which claims to be for human rights and justice are remaining silent and doing nothing at all.

Demonstrators demand to know who is killing them (MECRA)

Ali Al-Khafaji,m 45,the founder "Iraqi Youth Movement", Australia

The demonstrations of today are intended to collapse the entire political system of the country. It's an accumulation of eight years. Agents have come from east of the border to destroy Iraq. Agent (Pro-militias) Walayi militias and hired killers from " Iranian intelligence" are the ones who came from the east. From two sides: Iranian Revolutionary Guards and intelligence (Iranian Ministry of Intelligence – ed). These two entered Iraq to make bloodshed here and to destroy it. The demonstrations of today were under preparation for eight months. Revolutionary free individuals, groups and movements participated to make today possible.

The current PM (Mustafa al-Kadhimi), people call him a PM but he is not. He was one of the main security system players in the past in Adil Abdull-Mahdi’s government and he was direct manager of a key Iraqi intelligence agency.

So he has all the files on all cases of killing and assassination, and he knows which groups and militias are responsible. Hisham Al-Hashmi was one of the consultant advisors with Kadhimi, they killed him because he had a lot of information.

We have Imam Al-khumaini militias which are led by Ahmad Al-Assadi, he is in the Iraqi parliament, representing the Fatah bloc. They have a military presence in Baghdad and Diyala. In Diyala, they are based in Salman bag area. Ahmed al-Assadi owns a fake company for poultry.

The premises of this company is in fact a security place which they use to kidnap and kill activists and journalists by taking them to a farm area in Madaein. Also a special section of Muqtada Al-Sadr ‘s organization which has been activated nine months ago, Assaib Ahl-al Haq, and Raballa lead by Ktaeb Hezbullah, tho they dont officially admit this.

An operation room including all militias such as Hashd Al-shaabi, Assaib, Saraya Al-Salam, and Iraqi intelligence has been established.

They are all part of it, they don't want to reveal any name in these crimes against journalists and activists. Lebanon Hezbollah directly control the security situation here in Iraq, and they control all tourist offices in Baghdad in Karada and Saadon neighborhood and there are security operations inside.

The demonstrations will increase and wont decrease, they think they can stop demonstrations of young people today. In contrary, it's been two years we didn't get tired and we won't. Now, you are talking to me, it's being two nights I didn't sleep. They cannot break our determination and motivation, and the young are motivated to take revenge for their martyrs. They are excited to liberate all Iraq from all hired killers (Pro-Iran militias) and corrupted government. They killed our young men and seek to protect the interests of regional and international foreign countries. We want Iraq to be controlled by its people.

We had information that Abull-Ameer Yarrallah deputy of join command operation and Abo Trab Al-Hussaini the head of ERD forces, gave orders to open fire toward demonstrators. They both belong to the Badr organization.

About a week ago, 30,000 weapons were imported for the to Iraqi army. They have been transferred to the militias to be used killing and assassination.

250 individual were sent to Iran seven months ago to receive extensive training by the Revolutionary Guards - the so-called (Aghawat). These 250 were chosen from all the pro-Iran militia groups: Assaaib, Hezbollah, Saraya, Jund al-Imam Al-khumiani and some Hashd Al-shaabi factions. They distributed them in four main offices. Each office about 60 persons, they trained them on silencer weapons, drone operations and social media to create fake news attacks anyone against them. They had training inside Iran in the Hamadan area.

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