Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

Iraqis kept up anti-government protests in Baghdad and the south on Saturday, dissatisfied with the premier’s vow to quit and insisting on the overhaul of the system. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

  • Protesters in two countries unite to denounce Tehran’s violent repression of dissent

BEIRUT: Iran faced anger on two fronts on Saturday as demonstrators in Lebanon took to the streets of Beirut to support protesters in Iraq.

Tehran has orchestrated a violent crackdown on Iraqi protests in which more than 420 people have been killed, and its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon has been accused of complicity in attacks on protesters demonstrating there against corruption and financial hardship.

Demonstrators staged a candlelit vigil outside Iraq’s embassy in Beirut on Saturday to denounce the violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq. They held up photos of Iraqi protesters who have been killed, and one woman wrapped an Iraqi flag around her shoulders.

“The uprising in Iraq and the uprising in Lebanon are one,” said vigil organizer Layal Siblani. “A protester killed there is a protester killed here.” 

Another demonstrator in Beirut said: “We have to stand in solidarity with our Iraqi counterparts who are being arrested and killed on a daily basis.”

Elsewhere in Beirut, the mothers of activists targeted by opponents of the protests marched under banners declaring “nothing divides us” as they voiced their anger over violent attacks on protesters.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

A group of mothers in Tabaris, a largely affluent Christian neighborhood, marched to Khandak El Ghamik, a poorer area with a large number of Amal Movement and Hezbollah supporters.

One woman urged residents of the area not to attack protesters. “Politicians disagree in the day and agree in the evening, and we should not be dragged into incitement,” she said.

Protesters also organized a demonstration outside a barracks of the Internal Security Forces in Beirut, in protest at the arrest of activists.

Meanwhile in Iraq protesters burned tires and surrounded a police station in the southern city of Nassiriya on Saturday. Demonstrations also continued in Baghdad, but there were fewer reports of casualties than on the previous two days.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters for nearly two months, and dozens have been killed in the past few days in Nassiriya and Najaf.

Iraq’s Cabinet on Saturday approved the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, which is expected to be confirmed by Parliament on Sunday.


Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

Updated 25 January 2020

Pope backs Iraqi call for its sovereignty to be respected

  • President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats
  • The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met Iraq’s president on Saturday and the two agreed that the country’s sovereignty must be respected, following attacks on Iraqi territory this month by the United States and Iran.
President Barham Salih held private talks for about 30 minutes with the pope and then met the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.
The talks “focused on the challenges the country currently faces and on the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process, encouraging the path of dialogue and the search for suitable solutions in favor of citizens and with respect for national sovereignty,” a Vatican statement said.
On Jan. 8, Iranian forces fired missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for Washington’s killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike a Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a resolution ordering the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq to leave the country.
Soon after the Iranian attack, Francis urged the United States and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The pope discussed the Middle East with US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.
The recent tensions in Iraq could make it impossible for Francis to visit the country, which he has said he would like to do this year.
The Vatican said the pope and Salih also discussed “the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country.”
The Christian presence in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East has been depleted by wars and conflicts.
Iraq’s several hundred thousand Christians suffered particular hardships when Daesh controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered.