Over the past five days, Iraqi citizens have taken to the streets in protest. The country’s largest movement of its kind in years, thousands are calling for Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to resign.
Iraqi security forces have since viciously attacked the protesters, killing dozens and injuring thousands more. Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights reports that as of Saturday, at least 99 protesters have died as the Iraqi government shoots them with rubber bullets and live ammo alike.
Iraqi Forces Assault, Kill Protesters
In the below video, which @realsadaam posted to Twitter, a protester lays dead after a security official killed him. The video is highly graphic and audiences should take caution when viewing.
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Protesters being shot *Headshots only* by SNIPERS
live on camera
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???????? ??? ????? ?????? #?????#IraqProtests#????_???_???
— #IraqiRevolution (@realsadaam) October 6, 2019
Baghdad’s Tahrir Square has become one of the central protest locations. Recent videos from demonstrators feature frequent gunshots as the government’s forces continue to rain bullets down on their political opponents. The below video shows mostly unarmed protesters, many of whom are wearing masks, marching down the street with flags. But contintually, their actions have been met with tear gas and gunshots.
Additional video footage shows sparks flying as the Mahdi regime fires at will, seeking to quell the dissenters. Though some protesters have lobbed canisters of tear gas back at their assaulters, Iraqi security forces clearly hold the heavy ammunition, going so far as to deploy rocket launchers for use against the people of Iraq.
Welcome to #Iraq ??
The country that uses rocket launchers on unarmed protesters pic.twitter.com/cCQInMPEhk
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) October 4, 2019
In spite of these events, Mahdi has shown no signs of meeting the demands of the protesters. He has stood behind the actions of his security forces, asserting that there is no simple solution to the marchers’ demands. However, the only explicit demand is that Mahdi resign.
Many believe that the Mahdi regime is intentionally targeting media groups within the country to prevent coverage of the massacre. Several organizations faced attacks Saturday night from “armed men in black”, says one news analyst within the country.
A witness in one of the attacked media channels tonight: they were 12 white cars without number plates with armed men in black & balaclavas. The cars blocked the road, the men lined up the staff on the floor. They beat the staff up, took their wallets & phones.#IraqProtests
— Hiwa Osman (@Hiwaosman) October 5, 2019
According to George Washington University professor and news correspondent Joyce Karam, few stations are covering the attacks; those that do face violent blowback.
These are the few stations left covering the protests from Baghdad. Attacking them could be to prevent coverage.
Also shows both #Iraq Gov complacency in protecting press or worse collusion if reports are true that the Iraqi police refrained.
Thoughts with colleagues attacked..
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) October 5, 2019
Off the Grid?
While the demonstrations have been occurring, Iraq has faced widespread internet blackouts. It appears that the government has intentionally cut internet access off from the people, who have thus been largely unable to share their situation with the outside world.
?? Alert: #Iraq has cut internet access again as of 2:00 a.m. UTC; connectivity back at 27% ?
During the two hours, Iraqis where able to access social media using VPN services, posting videos documenting instances of live fire used against protesters
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) October 6, 2019
After 78 hours of shutdown, users were able to briefly access the web. Most users were still unable to access social media, but some used VPNs to evade this. But just two hours later, Iraq cut the cables again, reducing connectivity from 60% to 27%, the approximate level at which it has sat since late Wednesday.
Those two hours, though, have proven extremely valuable for those trying to spread the story. Since then, countless posts have surfaced across the web detailing the offenses that Iraqi forces have committed; some actually claim that Iranian forces are behind some of the violence.
This originates from Baghdad, where protesters Saturday found Iranian passports inside of some of the vehicles that attempted to halt the marches. Iranian officials have had a presence in Iraq for some time now. Though Mahdi has tried to control them in the past, some are now suggesting that he is either complicit in these actions or using the forces against his people.
The wave of demonstrations against the #Iraq|i government continues, as death toll crossed the threshold of 100, according to human rights organizations.
Over the weekend, #Baghdad civilians found #Iran|ian passports in armored and police vehicles that dispersed demonstrations pic.twitter.com/NFZIWZYbmo
— Islamic World Update (@islamicworldupd) October 6, 2019