Iraq's iconic four-months of protests continue: Week 17 interviews with participants
Exclusive interview with the coordinator of logistics for the demonstrations: Discussion about the militia interventions at Tahrir square
By KAREEM BOTANE
Date: 20th January, 2020
Ali Ahmed, age 24: "I am the logistic coordinator. I have been here since the 28th of October 2019. We have faced many attack with different weapons such as tear gas and we have a lot of martyrs." He then discussed the events of January 20 and the days before it. "The situation is really bad since that moment as you have seen with us today at Mahammad Qasim [expressway]. The government is attacking us with its different military sections such as Federal Police, Swat Team, and Iraqi Army all these attacking us with live ammunition and tear gas. Due to live fire and tear gas we lost many people in demonstration [today]. At this moment we speak of four dead time and it is 09:35 pm now."
Ahmed then elaborates on further challenges the protesters expect. It is the seventeenth week they have been protesting since October. More than 500 have been killed across Iraq and up to 20,000 wounded. "They [the security forces] made a promise to attack us at Tahrir Square during the night, so as to end this protest. It's been long time since the demonstration started."
"Not one of the politicians are ready to except the other chosen candidate to be a new Prime Minister [Adel Abdul Mahdi resigned in late November after protesters were killed in Nasiriyah and other cities]. The parties are not ready to give up on their positions and interests and they are not accepting any other options. As long as they have their big role in the government therefore they are not ready to accept any other options that will lead them to lose one of their positions in the government sector."
Who has been attacking the demonstrators and killing them? "We don't know for certain which Shia [Hashd al-Shaabi] militia section will attack tonight or in the early morning but we do know they really have a very strong tie with Iran." [Iran-US tensions have risen in recent weeks and Muqtada al-Sadr had called for a million-person march on January 24. Since the start of the protests many demonstrators had clashed with various militias and accused them of using snipers against them.]
Iran is playing a greater role? "Iran definitely wants to remain controlling Iraq and its Iraqi militia's. Iran knows these demonstrations. For their interest they will do whatever it takes to remain controlling Iraq. They will use everything they can in order to prevent other countries from intervening. The militia that has been attacking protests and still are include Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Organization, and the rest of the Hashd al-Shaabi (PMU).
The witness (Yusuf , 25 ) provides further details.
"We were at the protest tents at 05:00 am. They started attacking us with riot control forces clothes. They were shooting live fire. They were wearing masks but we could see them very clear. They attacked us in Tayaran square. On 20th of January, there were a vehicle with Erbil plates at the bridge of Mahammad al-Qasim which attacked us, Later on we asked who they are belong to, we have being told they are from the Prime Minister's office with riot control forces. Actually, they were Special Forces and their duty were just to kill without any mercy."
What other forces did you see?
"The chief commander is Mahamad Al-Fahad, a general of the second division, third brigade, and second section of The Federal Police. He is one of chief military officers and leader of the Badr Organistion, he recently moved to Federal Police. According to my sources inside the Federal Police, Mahamad Al-Fahad put the order out to Federal police to kill the demonstrators. My source has barely shared this information and he can't talk because they are all afraid."