Received from a contact (followed by links to various recent events in both countries)
SF note: There’s a tendency to minimise the problems and contradictions of these movements (eg patriotism and flag-waving; “citizenist” ideology in Lebanon which ignores class differences; etc.), which nevertheless doesn’t by any means mean that they’re not significant and that they don’t have a welcome spontaneity and independence.
At the moment there are significant socio-economic protests in Iraq and Lebanon. From a social-revolutionary perspective, this is a major event in the Middle East. These protests are organized through social networks and are of a leaderless nature. Their participants have managed to overcome sectarian barriers: Sunnis and Shiites have joined the protests.
The movement covers mainly Shiite areas: Baghdad and the southern cities of Iraq. But Sunnis and some Kurds have also spoken of their desire to join. Youths have raised the slogan: “Shiites and Sunnis are brothers!”. The main reason for the protests is related to 40 percent youth unemployment. In addition, in Iraq, social services are poorly functioning, there are not enough doctors, there are failures in the supply of electricity. The main problem is drinking water. Last year, 100,000 residents of the southern city of Basra received infectious diseases due to the fact that they drank dirty water (the entire population of Basra is 2 million people). The protesters are demanding the provision of work, basic public services and they fight against all politicians.
Iraq is incredibly rich. Iraq is the fourth largest oil exporter in the world, exporting 4.5 million barrels per day. But at the same time, Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. A giant inefficient government sector of the economy and private foreign companies that control oil production are appropriating all profits. Iraqis say: “Politicians get everything, people get nothing!”.
Previously, the government actively used the factor of sectarian division of the country, directing Shiites against Sunnis or Arabs against Kurds. But currently, mainly Shiite parties are in power, while Shiites make up the majority of protesters. It is therefore difficult for the government to exploit sectarian division. In addition, the core of the protesters are young people (Iraqis aged 15 to 25 make up 8 million of Iraq’s 39 million inhabitants), and they are less dependent on sectarian religious leaders and politicians.
The movement is somewhat reminiscent of the Yellow Vests [SF note: can’t see it helps clarify anything to make this comment]. They attack government offices, shouting slogans against all parties. In the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, youths set fire to the headquarters of all political parties and then chanted : “Nasiriyah has become free of political parties!”
The Iraqi authorities and Pro-Iranian militias were able to weaken this movement by using teams of snipers and other assassins: 163 protesters were killed and 6,000 wounded. However, two days ago, a very similar movement broke out in Lebanon, covering not only Beirut but also the cities in the South.
Today [19th October] is the Shiite Holy day, Arbaeen, and 20 million [sic] pilgrims from Iraq, Lebanon, Iran are gathering in the city of Karbala in southern Iraq and the protesters want to use it.
SF note: there’s a certain irony amongst those denouncing the “genocide” of the Kurds in Syria (roughly 150 have been killed – certainly horrible but so far not at all genocidal, despite Trump saying the Turks needed to have a swath of Syria “cleaned out” after battling with Syrian Kurds there) whilst largely remaining silent about the 100+ people who have been killed recently in the protests in Iraq. And now we see one of the reasons for this withdrawal – not just to give the green light to Turkey but to suppress the movement in Iraq.
Iraq: clashes continue (videos and links)
Iraq: death toll reaches 100 as clashes continue in Baghdad and southern part of country…this says 8 soldiers amongst those killed
“On Saturday morning the curfew was lifted in Baghdad, where over a dozen demonstrators were killed, and 40 more were wounded. Focal point Tahrir Square remains closed to cars. A witness claimed that army units tried to stop police from firing on protesters, but the military eventually retreated. Masked gunmen attacked several media outlets, including the offices of NRT, Al-Arabiya, Al-Hadath, Fallouja TV, Al-Ghad Al-Araby, SkyNews Arabia, Al-Sharqiya and Dijlah TV.“…HQs of 6 political parties torched “The mainly young, male protesters have insisted their movement is not linked to any party or religious establishment and have scoffed at recent overtures by politicians. On Saturday, demonstrators in the southern city of Nasiriyah set fire to the headquarters of six different political parties. Thousands also descended on the governorate in the southern city of Diwaniyah” See also this chronology of events from November 2018 back to July 2018 . See also this “Iraq’s wobbly democracy relies on the support of the Shia majority. The protests, though, have erupted in Shia areas and attracted the support of mostly young Iraqis, many of whom are unemployed. They are fed up with the government’s perceived incompetence and corruption. Despite increased oil revenues and relative peace after years of civil war, jobs are scarce and services are poor…There have been big protests before. In 2016 thousands of Iraqis stormed the then-fortified Green Zone, the seat of government in Baghdad, and demanded political reforms. The current protests are more spread out. There have been rallies in provincial capitals across the south and smaller, more violent protests in the suburbs. They are too numerous for the security forces to control. In Baghdad young men have cut off the airport road and set fire to the offices of the ruling Shia parties. The Green Zone, which was opened to the public in June, has been resealed. The timing of the protests seems to have caught the government off-guard. Normally they take place in the summer, when water and electricity are scarce. But the rains this year have been good and electricity production is at a post-war high. The government’s coffers are fairly flush thanks to record oil production. Still, it has been unable to deal with high poverty rates, and with youth unemployment that stands around 25%. The anger intensified after the security forces beat up new graduates seeking public-sector jobs last month. Scenes of them destroying homes built without planning permission further inflamed public sentiment… Masked men have smashed the offices of anti-Iranian satellite-TV stations that aired protest footage. Hundreds of activists have been arrested. Others have been killed in their homes. The government is also in disarray. Mr Abdul-Mahdi has unveiled a raft of measures aimed at calming the protesters, such as land distributions and increased welfare payments. But the speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Halbousi, has broadcast his own list of measures, including financial support for over a million low-income families… protesters… have… ignored appeals for calm from the chief Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who also warned the government that it must heed the demands of the protesters or things will get worse. Iraq’s young democracy, no stranger to tumult, may be facing its most dangerous moment yet. ”
Iraq: death toll rises as state shuts down internet on 3rd day of protests More links and videos here
Iraq: 10 dead, including 1 cop, as riots against corruption, lack of electricity, water & work spread to 8 different towns (videos and links)
“A curfew is in effect in the Iraqi capital Baghdad after a second day of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces. The restrictions will remain in place until further notice. Curfews had already been declared in three other cities as protests over lack of jobs, poor services and corruption escalated. The violence has left at least seven people dead and hundreds wounded. Social media platforms and internet access have been blocked in some areas. The nationwide protests, which appear to lack any organised leadership, are the largest since Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi took office a year ago.– here. More here. Video here explaining situation.
Iraq, Baghdad: 1 killed in protests against corruption, lack of water, of electricity and of work (videos and links)
And also these texts on this site:
Kamikaze Kapitalism (2003) On the Iraq war 2003 and aspects of its real and false opposition
Kurdish Uprising On the Kurdish uprising following the 1991 Gulf war
“Euphoric crowds partied deep into the night Sunday, leaving political and sectarian paraphernalia at home to gather under the cedar-stamped national flag, dance to impromptu concerts and chant often hilarious anti-establishment slogans.They were back in front of the houses of government and on the main Martyrs’ Square on Monday to listen to Hariri’s announcement, which was broadcast on loudspeakers. The crowd erupted into shouts of “revolution, revolution” when Hariri finished his address. “We want the fall of the regime,” they went on. “This is all just smoke and mirrors… How do we know these reforms will be implemented?” asked Chantal, a 40-year-old who joined the protest with her little daughter and a Lebanese flag painted on her cheek…Hariri detailed some of the measures taken by his fractious cabinet, including a programme of privatisations, a decision to scrap new tax hikes and halving the generous salaries of ministers and lawmakers….Schools, banks, universities and many private businesses closed their doors Monday, both for security reasons and in an apparent bid to encourage people to join the demonstrations.”
“There are a few key ways in which these latest protests differ from those in 2005 and 2015. As in 2015, but unlike in 2005, they are part of a genuine grassroots movement that has not been directed by any political party. They are cross-sectarian in a broader sense than those of 2015. They are taking place across Lebanon, rather than only in Beirut. And they are demanding the fall of the government from the outset, while criticising political leaders from every sect. Although the number of people on the streets was much higher in 2005, the current protests are much larger than those of 2015. They are also taking place in regions where such public action used to be considered impossible, particularly in southern Lebanon where people from the Shia community have been publicly denouncing traditional Shia leaders, including Nasrallah. The government’s response to the current protests has been its usual carrot-and-stick approach: walking back on proposals to increase taxes while cracking down on the protests through violence. Neither has deterred the protesters, who have vowed to stay on the streets until the government falls. For the first time, people are demanding accountability from the leaders of their own sects as well as from the government at large, and protesters in Sunni strongholds like Tripoli are expressing solidarity with protesters in Shia strongholds like Tyr. Civil society groups involved in the protests are also devising tactics to counter the violence and facilitate mobilisation (one group offered free scooter rides to protest sites) and creating a reform roadmap for the Lebanese state. For the first time, the protests are a condemnation of the political status quo that has, since even before Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, been largely recycling the same faces (or their relatives and descendants) in parliament, the cabinet and high-level positions in the civil service and military… The protests have only been taking place for a few days but the protesters already show a growing awareness not only of the governmental tactics typically used to try to diffuse popular movements but of their own needs as citizens, regardless of class or sect. This alone is a revolution in a country where the political system is, for the most part, a modern version of feudalism. “
“The people want the fall of power!”, “Revolution! Revolution!” There were tens of thousands of Lebanese in the streets across the country Saturday, for a third day of mobilization against the political class accused of corruption, an unprecedented movement since a long time in Lebanon. Despite … heavy intervention by the police on Friday night and dozens of arrests, the ranks of protesters have continued to grow, especially in… Beirut and Tripoli, the second largest city in the country. Saturday, during the day and even in the evening, unlike the two previous nights of clashes between rioters and police, the Lebanese were gathered in a good-natured atmosphere. Only a small clash between protesters in front of the mosque al-Amine was reported late evening…gatherings also took place in Akkar, where clashes with the security forces left three wounded, and in Zghorta in North Lebanon, Baalbeck in the Bekaa, Jal el-Dib in the Metn but also in Zouk in Kesrouan. Several roads were blocked by barricades of burning tires and dumpsters erected by protesters . In the morning, the army reopened highways, while volunteers cleared the city center which yesterday had been turned into a battlefield. Many shop fronts were destroyed, some were burned, dumpsters and burnt tires littered the ground….”They must leave, all of them” In front of the mosque al-Amine, young people were gathered during the day, they brandished a banner. “My message is our banner, they must leave, we want our children to have a future, we do not believe in their promises, we will stay until they leave,” says Roula…Some politicians were enormously insulted, and in the crudest terms, by the protesters. Essentially Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of the CPL, as well as Speaker of Parliament and Chief Amal, Nabih Berry. The wife of Berry was also the recipient of unflattering slogans … Though Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, was also targeted, the slogans were not so massively taken up“
Massive clashes in Beirut (videos and links)
“Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tyres, prompting a heavy deployment by security forces. Near government headquarters in central Beirut, violent confrontations broke out between protesters and security forces as demonstrators tried to storm the building. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters, after the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said clashes wounded 40 of its members. Protesters also sparked a large blaze near the Mohammad al-Amin mosque in Downtown Beirut…Besides the capital Beirut, protests erupted in the southern city of Sidon, the northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, before spreading to other areas..Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Choucair said that the government had reversed its decision to tax calls on messaging apps following the unrest.”