Despite overwhelming reports of activists being targeted and security forces using brute force to suppress demonstrations, anti-government protestors continued to rally across Iraq’s southern Dhi Qar province, especially in its capital, Nasiriyah.
Dozens have been injured and an activist has been killed, local activists in Nasiriyah reported.
They said the clashes erupted in Haboubi square after anti-riot forces used tear gas and batons in an effort to disperse the protesters who threatened to bring back their tents after having removed them early last December.
“Protesters have regained control of Haboubi Square, and will not leave it until their demands are met, the prosecution of protesters ceases, and all those who were arrested are released,” Iraqi activist Abbas as-Sadawi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Dozens were arrested and a protester was killed by security forces’ gunfire at Ibrahim Al-Khalil Square,” Sadawi confirmed.
No security or independent sources, however, have yet confirmed the killing of the activist.
“Nasiriyah is occupied by militias who are trying to take revenge on the people of the city who burned their headquarters last year,” Sadawi noted.
As for why protesters are escalating, activist Ghazwan Adnan says that “the movement is fed up with being targeted by armed groups operating under the umbrella of security forces, and no longer trusts the government to keep its promises on holding perpetrators accountable.”
“Armed groups, in less than a month, have targeted the homes of 18 activists without the authorities taking any action to deter the threat,” Adnan told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“It is widely believed that parties affiliated with the Sadrist Movement are behind the attacks,” he added, noting that the protest movement demands the removal of the local police chief over his conspiring with the attackers.
Today, according to Adnan, anti-government activists in Iraq fear getting attacked or arrested more than ever.
“Protesters have recently resorted to cordoning off areas with burning tires,” he explained.
“Today, most of the neighborhoods in Nasiriyah, as well as in some districts and sub-districts in the governorate, have been cut off, with the aim of putting pressure on the authorities and stopping the arrests and targeting of activists,” he added.