Firebrand cleric green-lights fresh protests in Iraq

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr delivers a speech during Friday prayer at the Great Mosque of Kufa, 10 kilometres northeast of the shrine city of Najaf in central Iraq on November 17, 2016. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2019

Firebrand cleric green-lights fresh protests in Iraq

  • Protesters have opposed any appropriation of their leaderless movement and the firebrand cleric was restrained on Sunday in comparison to his previous exhortations for “million-man marches”

BAGHDAD: Influential Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr has given his supporters the green light to resume anti-government protests, after the movement was interrupted following a deadly crackdown.
Protests shook Iraq for six days from Oct. 1, with young Iraqis denouncing corruption and demanding jobs and services before calling for the downfall of the government. The protests — notable for their spontaneity — were violently suppressed, with official counts reporting 110 people killed and 6,000 wounded, most of them demonstrators.
Calls have been made on social media for fresh rallies on Friday, the anniversary of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s government taking office.
“It’s your right to participate in protests on Oct. 25,” Al-Sadr told his followers in a Facebook post on Saturday evening.

HIGHLIGHT

Protests shook Iraq for six days from Oct. 1, with young Iraqis denouncing corruption and demanding jobs and services before calling for the downfall of the government.

Protesters have opposed any appropriation of their leaderless movement and the firebrand cleric was restrained on Sunday in comparison to his previous exhortations for “million-man marches.”
He qualified his support by adding: “Those who don’t want to take part in this revolution can choose another via the ballot box in internationally supervised elections and without the current politicians,” he said.
In his latest message, Al-Sadr called on his supporters to protest peacefully.


Major roads reopened in Lebanon after 2-day closure

Updated 26 min 45 sec ago

Major roads reopened in Lebanon after 2-day closure

  • The roads linking Beirut with the country’s south and north were opened shortly before noon Thursday
  • Thousands of people attended the funeral of a 38-year-old father who was shot dead by a soldier at a protest Tuesday night

BEIRUT: Lebanese troops reopened major roads around Lebanon Thursday after a two-day closure triggered by a TV interview with President Michel Aoun in which he called on protesters to go home.
The roads linking Beirut with the country’s south and north were opened shortly before noon Thursday, as well as others around the country.
Protesters have been holding demonstrations since Oct. 17 demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades.
Aoun said Thursday that the demands of protesters are being followed adding that “they will be among the top priorities of the government that we are working on forming in the near future.”
Aoun expressed hopes in comments released by his office that a new Cabinet “will be formed in the coming days” after removing obstacles that have been delaying the formation.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29, meeting a key demand of the protesters. Since then there have been disagreements over the new Cabinet as Hariri insists it should be made up of technocrats who will concentrate on solving Lebanon’s worst economic and financial crisis in decades while other politicians, including Aoun, want it to be a mixture of technocrats and politicians.
“Dealing with the developments should be based on national interests that need cooperation from all sides to achieve pursued goals,” Aoun said.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tweeted that the priority is to form a “salvation government” and prevent anyone from taking the country into a confrontation. Bassil is Aoun’s son-in-law and close aide.
The opening of the roads came a day after protesters started building a wall inside a tunnel on the highway linking Beirut with north Lebanon leading to an outcry by the public who saw it as a reminder of the 1975-90 civil war.
In the town of Jal Al-Dib, just north of Beirut, troops pushed away protesters from the highway and removed barriers that had been blocking the road since Tuesday night.
In the town of Choueifat south of Beirut, thousands of people attended the funeral of a 38-year-old father who was shot dead by a soldier at a protest Tuesday night. Alaa Abou Fakher’s death marked the first such fatality since the economically driven demonstrations against the government engulfed the country last month.
That protest was ignited by comments made by Aoun in a televised interview, in which he said there could be further delays before a new government is formed.
Abou Fakher’s coffin was carried through the streets of Choueifat as women dressed in black threw rice on it from balconies in a traditional Lebanese gesture.
Bank employees announced they will continue with their strike on Friday for the fourth day amid concerns for their safety as some of them have been subjected to insults by bank clients who were not allowed to withdraw as much as they wanted from their accounts. The country’s lenders are imposing varying capital controls that differ from bank to bank, fueling the turmoil.