On February 25th thousands of Iraqis took to the streets demanding an end to government corruption and better public services. Even though security forces shut down main roads that led to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, demonstrations continued all over the country. Major protests are scheduled to take place in the upcoming weeks.
Host Intro: This is War News Radio, On February 25th, across Iraq, the day of rage protests took place. In roughly 20 cities across the country, Iraqis came out in the thousands to protest high unemployment, corruption and a lack of basic public services. 8 years after the U.S led invasion of Iraq ousted Saddam Hussein Iraqis say the new government is failing to provide even the most basic services. Cristina Matamoros and Kyle Crawford have more. Here’s Cristina.
CRISTINA MATAMOROS: February’s 25th “day of rage” in Iraq saw roughly 15 people killed and hundreds injured. Security forces clashed with protesters trying to break up the demonstrations. Protests have continued everyday after the scheduled “day of rage” and major protests are scheduled to take place in the upcoming weeks. Hussein Alsudani who goes to Medical school outside of Najaf in southern Iraq explains what the protesters are demanding.
HUSSEIN ALSUDANI: The main things that the people are protesting for is getting the real democracy and to change the bad government. Unless the bad government change into a good government they will let it stay but the government is not responding to what the people ask for.
CRISTINA MATAMOROS: For many Iraqis this means greater political freedom, an end to corruption and better public services.
In Baghdad, the day of rage organized by the facebook group-The Iraqui Revolution- which has about 30,000 members organized a protest centered in Tahrir Square. Many were surprised when the government shut down roads leading to Tahrir Square. Nabeel Salih, a 19 year old student living outside of Baghdad described the actions of the government:
NABEEL SALIH: Facebook page, the Iraqui Revolution, they made a plan how the people go to the protests and Tahrir square next day on Friday they were surprised by the government action. They blocked all the roads to no let people reach Tahrir Square.
CRISTINA MATAMOROS: This greatly affected the number of participants in the protest because anyone that wanted to take part had to walk to the square. Nabeel for one could not attend the protests because he would have been forced to walk there.
A number of human rights organization and UN representative to Iraq have expressed concerned about the disproportionate use of violence against protesters. Nabeel believes that the ones responsible for the civilian attacks are forces not related to the National army.
NABEEL SALIH: These guys I’m telling you they harmed them and they used the real bullets to hurt the protesters.
CRISTINA MATAMOROS: Iraqis have had a keen eye on the protests happening in other parts of the Middle East especially in Tunisia and Egypt.
Michael Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation who is a Middle East expert says:
MICHAEL HANNA: I don’t think we would have seen the level of protests and uprising that we’re witnessing all across the region if it hadn’t been for Tunisia.
CRISTINA MATAMOROS: According to Hanna, the revolts in Tunisia were the starting point for all the following protests in the Middle East.
Hussein Alsudani says that Iraqis gained inspiration from the revolutions occurring in other Middle Eastern countries.
HUSSEIN ALSUDANI: Yes was very inspiring and made us feel like its time to change how we live and how we accept the government actions and like to call for our rights.
CRISTINA MATAMOROS: Like in other Middle Eastern countries, social networks played a major role in organizing and recruiting protesters. Hussein Alsudani believes that facebook is one of the only mediums showing people the truth about the situation.
HUSSEIN ALSUDANI: But facebook and the people are showing by videos and pictures, they are transfering the thruth for the people. So facebook is playin a major role in the protests.
CRISTINA MATAMOROS: Upcoming protests are already on the protester’s agendas. For days after the “day of rage”, people continued to protest against the government for shutting down major roads and using violence against civilians. Hussein Alsudani describes the anger felt on the Iraqui streets these days as increasing because of all the challenges the government is giving the people. Hussein predicts protests will continue to increase in number until the government decides to implement some reforms. For War News Radio, I’m Cristina Matamoros.