Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Iraq Protesters Unfurl UN Flag to Appeal for Protection

Iraq Protesters Unfurl UN Flag to Appeal for Protection

Wednesday, 29 January, 2020 - 08:45
A poster of top religious authority Ali al-Sistani is seen as Iraqi protesters stand at the Turkish Restaurant building, during anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq January 26, 2020. (Reuters)

Iraqi protesters at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square unfurled on Tuesday a large banner of the country’s highest religious authority, Ali al-Sistani, and the United Nations flag over the façade of the Turkish Restaurant building, in an appeal for protection against a security crackdown against their movement.

Known as “Mount Uhud”, the six-story building is strategically located between Tahrir Square and al-Jumhuriya Bridge and has become a symbol for the protest movement over the past four months.

Activist Mohamed Modil told Asharq Al-Awsat that protesters no longer trust any local or foreign party other than Sistani, the Najaf's religious authority, which supports them.

The movement is also seeking an international role to pressure authorities into protecting the demonstrators, he added.

The movement realizes that persistence achieves its demands, but it took the initiative to unfurl the Sistani poster and UN flag to urge them to provide greater support to the protests and their just demands, he continued.

Modil pointed out that some protesters in Tahrir hoisted the UN flag on a large mast in the center of the square to urge it to protect the demonstrators. However, he noted others refused the idea and preferred if protesters depended on themselves without any intervention.

Protesters in other governorates carried the UN flag, asking for support and protection against the security forces that have been using excessive violence against them.

Meanwhile, Jordanian authorities ordered the al-Dijla television channel to stop broadcasting for a month and did not renew its broadcasting permit over its “violation of media regulations.”

Iraqi authorities ordered a one-month closure of the channel, which aired intensive coverage of the anti-government protests, media and police sources told AFP.

Interior ministry forces fully shut al-Dijla's offices in Baghdad last night and asked the staff to leave, according to a source.

The National Union of Iraqi Journalists condemned Amman’s decision, with journalists questioning why a foreign state would halt the broadcast of an Iraqi channel.

A press source at al-Dijla told Asharq Al-Awsat that the move was coordinated between Iraqi and Jordanian authorities to “muzzle the channel that had very professionally covered the protests.”

He added that another reason for the ban may be linked to the channel’s administrative head, Jamal al-Karbouli’s rejection of the establishment of a Sunni region, which some Sunni figures and political parties advocate.

The source wondered why the Ministry of the Interior sent an armed force to the channel after midnight, and insisted on closing the offices in Baghdad, bearing in mind that the Ministry has nothing to do with this matter.

He added that Jordanian authorities did not raid the channel’s office in Amman or ask its employees to leave.

At least 80 employees work at the Baghdad bureau and another 50 at the station's headquarters in Amman.

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