Defiant protesters hit streets in south Iraq for second day

Defiant protesters hit streets in south Iraq for second day
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This picture taken on November 28, 2020 shows a view of people gathering at a protest site in Habboubi Square in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah. (AFP)
Defiant protesters hit streets in south Iraq for second day
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This picture taken on November 28, 2020 shows a view of people gathering at a protest site in Habboubi Square in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah. (AFP)
Defiant protesters hit streets in south Iraq for second day
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This picture taken on November 28, 2020 shows a view of people cleaning up at a protest site in Habboubi Square in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah. (AFP)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Defiant protesters hit streets in south Iraq for second day

Defiant protesters hit streets in south Iraq for second day
  • In the southern hotspot of Nasiriyah, anti-government activists accused the Sadrists of shooting at them
  • Sadr had called on his followers to hit the streets in a show of force on Friday, prompting thousands to turn out

NASIRIYAH: Anti-government protesters defied lockdowns and the threat of violence to demonstrate on Saturday in several Iraqi cities, with new clashes with security forces claiming the life of one protester.
Tensions were high in several Iraqi cities, a day after clashes between the dwindling members of the October 2019 anti-government protest movement and supporters of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Sadr had called on his followers to hit the streets in a show of force on Friday, prompting tens of thousands to turn out in the capital Baghdad and other cities.
In the southern hotspot of Nasiriyah, anti-government activists accused the Sadrists of shooting at them and torching their tents in their main gathering place of Habboubi Square late Friday.
Clashes continued into the night, with medics reporting a total of seven dead by Saturday morning, five of them from bullet wounds, and at least 60 wounded.
Nasiriyah was a major hub for the protest movement that erupted last year against a government seen by demonstrators as corrupt, inept and beholden to neighboring Iran.
Violence also broke out on Saturday night in the southern city of Kut, where a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity that a protester was killed in skirmishes with security forces.
Authorities in Kut had imposed new restrictions on movement at dawn on Saturday and fired tear gas at anti-government demonstrators in an effort to clear out their camp.
The fresh violence has coincided with the one-year anniversary of one of the bloodiest incidents of the 2019 anti-government uprising.
On November 28 last year, more than three dozen people died in protest-related violence at Nasiriyah’s Zeitun (Olive) Bridge.
The deaths sparked outrage across Iraq and prompted the resignation of then-prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.
His successor, Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, has sought to reach out to protesters and set June 2021 as a date for early elections — a major demand of the youth-dominated movement.
But in Nasiriyah on Saturday, demonstrators were just as enraged at him as they were at his predecessor a year ago.
Despite a curfew imposed in the city since Friday night, outraged protesters gathered at Habboubi Square starting early on Saturday, their numbers swelling throughout the day.
Under an early winter drizzle, the young men erected metal frames and rolled out orange and blue tarps to hang atop them, an AFP correspondent said.
A few carried a poster bearing pictures of both Kadhemi and Abdel Mahdi and the caption: “Two sides of the came coin.”
There were no police in sight around Habboubi Square, but a security source told AFP that units had been deployed to the city’s edges to seal off access to Nasiriyah to anyone except its residents.
Authorities had sacked the city’s police chief, launched an investigation into the events and imposed an overnight curfew in Nasiriyah.
But there is little hope that the official probe would lead to much closure, as families of those who died in last year’s rallies say they are still waiting for justice.
On Saturday evening, the massive crowd left Habboubi Square in a memorial march to honor those who lost their lives a year ago, carrying symbolic coffins as they made their way to Zeitun Bridge.
Asaad Al-Naseri, an ex-Sadrist based in Nasiriyah, called on Kadhemi to step down.
“Submit your resignation, have mercy on yourself and do Iraq a favor,” he wrote on Twitter.


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2021

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.