Hundreds protest in Iraq after attacks on activists

Hundreds protest in Iraqi city of Nasiriyah following targeting of activists
3 min read
20 September, 2020
Hundreds of protesters have blocked roads and bridges in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah after one activist was kidnapped and another injured by unknown militias.
Protesters camped outside the Governorate building in Nasiriyah [Twitter]
Hundreds of protesters have blocked roads and bridges in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah after one anti-corruption activist was kidnapped and another severely injured by unknown militias.

The protesters blocked the Nasr, Hadarat, and Zeitoun bridges – the three main bridges in the city – by burning tires. Other protesters camped outside the Governorate Building, demanding that security forces reveal the identity of the militants who kidnapped and injured the two activists.

The kidnapped activist was identified as Sajjad Al-Iraqi, and the activist who was injured as a result of an attempt on his life, was identified as Basem Fulaih.

Read more: Iraq’s reign of fear – Inside the violent power struggle killing Basra’s activists

One protester told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that protesters would not return to their homes until the Iraqi government published the names of all those involved in killing and kidnapping of activists, and brought them to justice.

Since October 2019, Iraqis have been protesting against government corruption, widespread unemployment and poor public services.

Hundreds of protesters have been killed and thousands more injured either by government security forces or by shadowy militias, some of which are part of the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) coalition. In November last year, dozens of people were killed in a massacre in Nasiriyah.

The police chief of Dhi Qar province, which includes Nasiriyah, called on residents of the city to show "calm and restraint", promising in a statement "to exercise all efforts to free kidnapped activist Sajjad Al-Iraqi".

Just 24 hours before the kidnappings, protesters had agreed to reopen the Zeitoun Bridge after the government agreed to rename it the 'Martyrs’ Bridge' in memory of protesters killed in earlier protests.

After the kidnapping, the protesters said in a statement that they would close "all entrances to, roads, and squares in Nasiriyah" until Al-Iraqi was freed.

Last month, the killing of two anti-corruption activists by militia groups in Basra led the Iraqi government to launch a major security operation in that city.

On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi imposed a travel ban on General Jamil Shamarri, who is accused of overseeing the killing and injury of dozens of protesters in Nasiriya, after the general requested permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.

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