On the frontlines of the protests in Baghdad: "Friday we will see armed struggle"
Interviewed, translated and transcribed by Kareem Botane
What follows is an interview with a demonstrator who took part in the demonstrations in Baghdad on October 2 and 3. He spoke quickly and during the demonstrations to us by phone and we recorded his discussion of the current events, developments and what he believes will take place on Friday, October 4, 2019. We have transcribed this quickly and without changing his tone or direct language. Due to the speed of translation there may be spelling mistakes in some places or in the words we kept in Arabic.
The man asked to be referred to by a nickname as Abu Ghazal Al-Alawi. He gave his age as thirty years old and a resident of Baghdad.
This is a revolution of the hungry. The protests over the last several days are not about religion or ethnicity.
Most of the demonstrator are government employees and the rest are unemployed or jobless. Maybe, myself, as person who has a salary with $1000 a month seems well off, but it's not enough, there is no respect, there is no appreciation from the government towards our people. There is no government that cares about the people's interest. The government shouldn't treat people by giving just them the salary, but to respect them. We should be treated as human not as garbage or refuse.
The officials are putting pressure on normal people and more taxes day by day until they made people to reach the point to come out from their silence. The streets are full of rubbish. The system is corrupt. They impose and put pressure on normal people, such as motorcycle drivers, shop owners, and people who depend on daily hard work to make a living. Too many negative attitudes create anger among people. All this made the street to be like a ticking time bomb. The politicians’ attitude and treatment is what caused it. Therefore, speeches on this Friday, October 4, will demand change of religion leaders, whom have depressed our people’s feelings, emotions and hopes. All these made people to reach the point to be explode like a bomb and to not be able to take any more. People are angry at everyone: religious leaders, politician, and military leaders, and the parties.
That's why there is no exception in where the anger is directed: No one is no holy, no individual and politician is holy anymore.
Today Iraq is unholy. Today, Iraq is given over to whoever wants it. It will come by the blood of Iraq’s sons.
We want a caretaker government.
I personally participated in the protest and it was a while ago we demanded for the increase of our salary. We asked the Prime Minister repeatedly but there was no response to our demands. We also asked the parliamentary president within political parties to stand with us to support our case. But, another decision came to not implement the demands since 2007. The government should look at those people who have been in in the government sector working for a long time and they should get what they deserve for their services.
There was news to move all these people to contract employees instead of governmental official (civil servant) employees. This was the beginning of the demonstration. Then, we moved to the phase of lies of government, politician, and parties. Then, we moved to the stage of Iraqi revolution. This is a great and free revolution that is not led by any, it has no leader nor headquarter. Even, if you try to find one leader to represent the demonstration you won't find none. You will not find one to negotiate.
The Prime Minster had a meeting to find and sit with leaders of demonstrations but he didn't. He was not able to recognize anyone, and there was no one raised up to speak to him.
Our demands are very simple which is we want a caretaker government. It's possible, we had seen a lot in the past from such governments.
Our main demand for now is caretaker government after that we will reveal the face of the demonstrators with their demands. The government will restructure its sectors, it will begin to arrest corrupted people and criminals. It will release and reveal the names of those who killed demonstrators with live bullets and torturing them.
We have exclusive footage of people that got killed in front us by live bullets in Shaikh Abdulqadir Gailani mosque. A woman was shot in the head, a child, and the husband in his chest. A protestor got shot in his head. I really don't know how to describe it. It's a genocide here, people are dead in the street, they are chased from lanes to lanes, from streets to streets. Now, at this moment as I am talking to you the casualties are increasing, we see by our own eyes people got killed. The shooters are not trying to separate out but it's just to kill.
Last night, there were a vehicle moving on Aljmhourai [Jamhuriya] Bridge there were about three vehicles, it was an ambulance for federal police so it was an ambulance but it should hold the Red Cross on the car. These cars went inside Al Tahrir square driving fast toward the people inside square. This reveals that they used ambulances to hit people.
Another thing, after they attacked the demonstrators ,then the demonstrators responded to them, while they were trying to turn and going out the demonstrators were able to destroy the windshield of the one ambulance. It turns out to be riot control and with other forces inside. Demonstrators were able to arrest two of them. One of them he surrounded to us and he acknowledged that they have orders to open fire with live bullets and says “I am from riot control forces belonging to the interior minister.” And the second, he was very scared, afraid and he was crying. He said he was from Saraya Khorasani. We even heard him say “Peshmerga.” But, we during all these periods of our demonstration did not find any Peshmerga. We know there is Peshmerga but they are here to protect the Presidency. I think there is someone trying to mix up rumors and poison minds with them. But, we confirm Saraya Khorasani they are linked with Hashd Al-Shaabi. Therefore, we are here demonstrating, looking forward to hear Peshmerga statement about these regards.
I am a witness of genocide and crimes that happen in front of me: civilian without doing anything got killed also at Imam of Shaikh Abdulqadir Gailani mosque, people were tortured inside of mosque. They used extreme violence against demonstrators. There were people who were running and young people got surrounded in the mosque and lanes near it and the security forces used tears gas. I saw it happen.
They used extreme violence against demonstrators.
We don't want to meet any of the three leaders (President, PM and Speaker). What we want is a caretaker government, after that we will have another word. There are crimes. If that hadn’t happened out there, we would agree to sit and meet with them. But, there are crime that happened and blood came in the streets, there are dead people, there should be a caretaker government. And there should be a trial for who did all these crimes, after that we will sit and we will show our demands. There will be demands.
I started my life being neutral and tomorrow I will start as freeman in Tahrir square and die free.
I believe until tomorrow it will be an armed struggle, you can quote on me today on that. It will be with Molotov [firebombs] tomorrow it will be armed struggle. Today, Thursday was named “sacrifice Thursday (Khamis Al-Shahada),” tomorrow will be a Friday of victory (Jumeat Alaintisar). After the prayers of Friday, tomorrow (October 4) people will hold their guns and will revenge to their beloved ones they lost. They will revenge against those who killed demonstrators.
They will revenge against those who killed demonstrators.
Now, do you think in Iraq we will give up on our beloved ones and not take a revenge? I don't know what should be done to compensate for all those lost. But what I know for certain tomorrow it will be a struggle.
All these tanks, Humvees , armored cars with heavy weapon exist for emergencies against an enemy and against terrorists and the government used them against civilians without provocation. So, it will be Armed struggle, and the one who made that happen is the current Prime Minister.