Iraqi protester shot dead as anti-regime rallies continue

Iraqi protester shot dead as anti-regime rallies continue
A supporter of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force flashes victory signs during a protest outside the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 1, 2020 to condemn the US air strikes that killed 25 Hashed fighters over the weekend. (AFP)
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Updated 02 January 2020

Iraqi protester shot dead as anti-regime rallies continue

Iraqi protester shot dead as anti-regime rallies continue
  • Saadoun Al-Luhaybi, was shot in the head in a southwestern neighborhood of the Iraqi capital

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi activist was shot dead overnight in Baghdad, a police source told AFP on Thursday, as anti-government rallies carried on despite a separate day-long siege of the US embassy.
The activist, Saadoun Al-Luhaybi, was shot in the head in a southwestern neighborhood of the Iraqi capital, the police source said.
He had been taking part in youth-led demonstrations rocking Iraq since early October that have demanded the ouster of a governing class seen as corrupt, inept and beholden to Iran.
The protesters have occupied Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir Square, just across the river Tigris from the Green Zone, home to government offices, the United Nations headquarters and foreign embassies.
On Tuesday, an angry mob marched into the Green Zone and to the US embassy, outraged over American air strikes that killed fighters from the Hashed Al-Shaabi military force.
They besieged the embassy for just over 24 hours, leaving on Wednesday afternoon after an order from the Hashed.
The anti-government demonstrators who have been taking to the streets for months insist their movement is entirely unrelated to the crowds that besieged and vandalized the American mission.
“We’ve got nothing to do with that,” one demonstrator in the southern protest hotspot city of Diwaniyah told AFP.
Protesters still occupied the streets in the city, where they have shut down most government offices and schools.
They briefly allowed local government offices to reopen to let employees receive their salaries at the end of the year, an AFP correspondent said.
Violence also hit the southern city of Nasiriyah overnight, with two activists surviving separate attempts on their lives.
Around a dozen activists have died in targeted killings across the country, among the nearly 460 lives lost in protest-related violence over the past three months.
Demonstrators have warned that these killings, along with kidnappings and different forms of harassment, are an attempt to scare them into halting their movement.
“What happened in front of the US embassy was an attempt to draw people’s eyes away from the popular protests now in their fourth month,” said Ahmed Mohammad Ali, a student protester in Nasiriyah.
“We’re still here, protesting for change and hoping for victory,” he told AFP.


EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020
Updated 13 min 2 sec ago

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020

EU, Turkey call for better ties after tough 2020
  • Turkey faces threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: The European Union and Turkey pressed each other on Thursday to take concrete steps to improve relations long strained by disagreements over energy, migration and Ankara’s human rights record.
Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU membership despite the tensions, is facing the threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, but the mood music between Brussels and Ankara has improved since the new year.
“We have seen an improvement in the overall atmosphere,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he welcomed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for talks, describing 2020 as complicated.
“Intentions and announcements need to be translated into actions,” Borrell said.
The improved tone follows a video conference between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Jan. 9 in which both stressed the importance of the bilateral relationship.
Cavusoglu said he hoped von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the head of the European Council which represents the 27 EU member states, would visit Turkey after an invitation from Erdogan.
“It is of course important for there to be a positive atmosphere in Turkey-EU ties, but in order for this to be sustainable, we must take concrete steps,” Cavusoglu added.
2020 proved particularly difficult for relations between Turkey and the EU, especially France, with Erdogan expressing publicly his hope that protests in French cities would topple President Emmanuel Macron.
Greece and Cyprus, strongly backed by France, want to punish Turkey for what they see as provocative oil and gas exploration by Turkish vessels in disputed waters, but Germany and Italy are reluctant to go ahead with any sanctions on Ankara.
Turkey has now withdrawn the vessels and is set to restart talks with Greece, although the EU has accused Ankara of playing “cat and mouse” in a pattern of provocation and reconciliation.
EU leaders will decide in March whether to impose sanctions.
Brussels also accuses Erdogan of undermining the economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts and media, leaving Turkey’s bid to join the EU further away than ever.
“We remain concerned about the (human rights) situation in Turkey,” Borrell said on Thursday.
The European Parliament is expected on Thursday to back a resolution calling for the release of Selahattin Demirtas, a leading Kurdish politician jailed in 20216 on terrorism-related charges.
But Turkey remains a big destination for EU trade and investment and also hosts some 4 million Syrian refugees. The EU aims to agree fresh funds for the refugees from 2022 to discourage them from coming into the bloc.
Ankara wants progress on Turks’ right to visa-free travel to the EU, an upgrade of its trade agreement with Europe and recognition of its claims to hydrocarbons off its maritime shelf.