Iraqis gather for more protests after death toll reaches 63

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Iraqis gathered in Tahrir Square in Baghdad for another day of demonstrations. (AFP)
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Iraqi protesters gather on the capital Baghdad's Al-Jumhuriyah Bridge on October 26, 2019, during an anti-government protest. (AFP)
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Iraqi security forces stand guard during an anti-government protest near the capital Baghdad's Al-Jumhuriyah Bridge on October 26, 2019. (AFP)
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An Iraqi protester, draped in a national flag, flashes the victory sign near the capital Baghdad's Al-Jumhuriyah Bridge on October 26, 2019, during an anti-government rally. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2019

Iraqis gather for more protests after death toll reaches 63

  • Some 200 of the protesters had camped out overnight in the capital's central Tahrir Square, and were cleaning up the area
  • Parliament was set to meet on Saturday in an emergency session to discuss protesters' demands

BAGHDAD: At least 63 people have died in two days of anti-government protests in Iraq's capital and across its south, a national rights watchdog said Saturday.

The Iraqi Human Rights Commission said the highest tolls from clashes since Friday were in the southern provinces of Dhi Qar and Missan.

Protests in the south have taken a new turn, with demonstrators torching government and paramilitary offices.

Some 200 of the protesters had camped out overnight in the capital's central Tahrir Square, and were cleaning up the area. Others read verses from the Qur'an to mourn those killed.

Eight protesters were killed in Baghdad on Friday, most of them after being struck by tear gas canisters launched by security forces trying to control the crowds.


Across the country, at least 40 protesters died, as demonstrators vented their frustration at political elites who they say have failed to improve their lives after years of conflict and economic hardship.
Parliament was set to meet on Saturday in an emergency session to discuss protesters' demands.
"The government has been stealing from us for 15 years. Saddam went and 1,000 Saddams have been hiding in the Green Zone," a young protester, who declined to be named, said on Friday, referring to the former Iraqi dictator.
The Green Zone is the central government zone of Baghdad that was closed to the Iraqi public for many years.

The Interior Ministry praised what it called the restraint shown by security forces on Friday.
"The security forces secured the protection of demonstrations and protesters responsibly and with high restraint, by refraining from using firearms or excessive force against demonstrators," the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
In Iraq's mainly Shiite southern provinces, which saw violence overnight as protesters clashed with Iranian-backed Shiite militias, the situation was calmer on Saturday, with a curfew still in place across most urban areas.

However, the heads of powerful Iraqi paramilitary factions threatened they would take "revenge" on Saturday after their offices in the south of the country were torched during deadly protests.
Demonstrators set fire to dozens of government buildings and offices belonging to the influential Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force across southern cities late Friday.
In Missan province, the headquarters of the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, one of the Hashed factions, was torched and a leading commander of the group reportedly killed.
Wissam Al-Alyawi was later pronounced dead by the group, after footage circulated online showing him writhing in an ambulance as a crowd of men tried to break into it.
Asaib chief Qais Al-Khazaali was in Baghdad on Saturday for the funeral procession of Alyawi and his brother Issam, apparently killed in the same incident.
"His blood is on America and Israel's hands, but I will take revenge - many times over," Khazaali told mourners, holding back tears as he stood next to their wailing mother.
"This blood is proof to all our people of the size of the conspiracy that is targeting us," he said.
Dozens of Hashed fighters were gathered in military fatigues for the procession in central Baghdad, just a few districts south of where protests were taking place in Tahrir (Liberation) Square.


The latest bloodshed was the second major bout of violence this month. A series of clashes two weeks ago between protesters and security forces left 157 people dead and over 6,000 wounded.
More than 2,000 people were injured nationwide in those protests, according to medical sources and the Iraqi High Commission on Human Rights (IHCHR).


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”