Received from a contact (followed by links to various recent events in both countries)
Originally entitled “Social revolt in Iraq and Lebanon”, this text basically concentrated on Iraq. I have now moved all the information on Lebanon to here
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.
“Road blocks and massive strikes also disrupted work in Hilla, Amara, Diwaniya, Kut and the shrine city of Najaf.“
“Since October 25, university and school students across Baghdad and Iraq’s south have defied the government and gone on strike to support protesters’ demands…”There are barely any jobs out there, even if you’re a university graduate,” he told Al Jazeera. “So, what’s the point of going to class now and then being unemployed a few years later.”…Most of those boycotting classes have been university-level students but school teachers and students have also taken part. After the Iraqi teachers’ syndicate called for a nationwide strike from October 28 to November 7 to mark the beginning of school walkouts, most schools in Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces shut their doors..”During the official strike, we saw 100 percent adherence at most schools across Baghdad and the south,” .. when the education ministry tried to end the strike by threatening to blame the syndicate for any measures it takes against striking teachers, the body fought back… 50 to 75 percent of school students in Baghdad and the south were on partial strike or attended protests after school hours. The ministry of higher education has warned that if university students continue to strike it may cancel spring break, while the army has warned it would detain administrators who keep schools shut as part of its fight against “terror””
“…an eerie howl from a brass trumpet breaks the uneasy silence. This is the signal for a group of young men to re-congregate for a night of personal and targeted action: burning the homes of local officials, politicians and militia leaders…In the capital, sit-ins and strikes by students have symbolised the hopes of a young generation yearning for a post-sectarian politics. But in the south, where Iran-backed militias are either stronger than the state or are the state, and where a party or a militia can dominate a single security apparatus, the rage and anger has been more personal and more vengeful….In Ammara, for instance, a crowd burnt the headquarters of a powerful Iranian-backed militia. Guards opened fire, and during the ensuing clashes protesters pulled the militia’s injured commander from an ambulance and killed him…”…when local people heard the bullets and saw their young getting killed, they left their houses. It became a matter of honour and shame. We decided to liberate our cities from these parties.”…The anger towards the militias and political parties, activists say, began with the defeat of Isis, when young men returned from the frontlines to find that their commanders had turned into warlords, accumulating wealth and business contracts. …“So many politicians and officials come from here, and yet this a very poor town in a very poor province,” says Mohamed, a human rights activist and a vocal anti-corruption campaigner. “During the elections the politicians give people blankets and a few phone cards, hire a few men to the police, pave a road … that’s how they win votes. After 16 years of Shia rule, the Shia kids are now saying that things were better under Saddam.”
Najaf: Iranian consulate torched (videos and links)
“Demonstrators outraged by rampant government corruption and poor services burned tires and blocked main road arteries…seven protesters were killed in the southern province of Basra, near the Umm Qasr port…Earlier in Basra, which accounts for nearly 85 percent of the country’s crude oil production, protesters burned tires in the city center cutting main roads. Officials said four protesters were killed in Nassiriya province, and one killed in both Najaf and Diwanieh provinces. One security official in Basra said it was “one of the worst” days since the start of the protest movement. At least 150 protesters were wounded. At least 342 people have died since demonstrations began October 1…The leaderless uprising seeks to overthrow the political establishment. Security forces appeared to have fired live rounds at protesters near the Umm Qasr port, killing three …Protesters had cut roads leading to Umm Qasr, the country’s main commodities port, halting all trade activity. Security forces cleared the area of protesters on Thursday.”
More clashes in Baghdad (videos and links)
And so it continues (videos & links)
“In the southern city of Basra, security forces dispersed a sit-in outside the local government headquarters…Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who only speaks on politics in times of crisis and wields enormous influence over public opinion in Shia-majority Iraq, held security forces accountable for any violent escalation and urged the government to respond as quickly as possible to demonstrators’ demands… Protesters, some of whom view al-Sistani as part of the political and religious system they say is the cause of many Iraqis’ misery, took little solace from the scholar’s words. “He says he’s supporting protests and that we should keep going, but he hasn’t helped. The speech won’t make a difference either way,” said one woman protesting in Baghdad whose son was killed in recent clashes…In Basra, at least five protesters were killed in confrontations on Thursday and early Friday, with security forces trying to reopen roads blocked by sit-ins, medical officials and state media said. For a week, protesters have cut access to Basra’s Umm Qasr port, which brings in most of Iraq’s food and medical imports. In Baghdad, six people died facing off against security forces Thursday”
“Demonstrators block gates to Umm Qasr port in southern Iraq, hours after services resumed following days of closure…Iraq‘s security forces shot dead at least four protesters in Baghdad on Thursday, police and medical sources said, as weeks of deadly unrest showed no signs of abating. Another 35 people were wounded in clashes near Shuhada Bridge as mass demonstrations continued for a 13th straight day with thousands thronging central areas of the capital. The protesters were trying to remove barriers near two bridges that lead to the western bank of the Tigris River and provide access to the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies. Now all bridges leading to the Green Zone have been blocked by security forces…Protesters, mostly unemployed young people, blame a political elite that has ruled Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in a 2003 US-led invasion, and demand a complete overhaul of the political system…In southern Iraq, protesters forced the closing of the country’s main port hours after services had resumed following days of closure. The short-lived reopening of the Umm Qasr port, which houses a vital oil terminal and is an entry point for food and basic goods, came a day after the military called on the protesters to stop blocking roads and ports. But shortly afterwards, dozens of anti-government protesters – including relatives of a demonstrator killed during weeks of violence – returned and started burning tires and blocking the road to the port. Cargo-carrying trucks came to a standstill and the port shut down again. The country is beginning to feel the fiscal pinch of weeks of the unrest, which started in Baghdad and quickly spread to southern cities. The new stoppage of operations at Umm Qasr port in the south is likely to compound financial losses a day after the government said a weeklong halt of operations had cost more than $6bn…Internet returned briefly in most parts of Iraq on Thursday but went out again after 1pm local time (10:00 GMT). Authorities have heavily restricted internet access during the protests. The government said it is enacting reforms but has offered nothing that is likely to satisfy most protesters. Stipends for the poor, more job opportunities for graduates, and pledges to punish a handful of corrupt officials have come too late for those demanding an overhaul of state institutions, a flawed electoral process, and system of governance that has fuelled endemic corruption, many Iraqis say.”
“… the field’s 30,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production have been shut in for several days because road blockades in Basra are preventing tanker trucks from bringing crude to the Khor al-Zubair port. ” More here “Protests in Iraq shut down the country’s key port at Umm Qasr on Wednesday morning, as demonstrators took control of entrances into the facility days after thousands successfully blocked off the highway leading to the port.Protesters have also cordoned off the road to Iraq’s key Majnoon oil field near the southern city of Basra, while police have closed the road leading to the nearby Iranian consulate.Protesters have focused their rage on symbols of the Islamic Republic in recent days, attempting to torch the consulate in Karbala on Monday while calling for the end of Iranian meddling in domestic politics. …Six people have been killed in Basra in the past 24-hours as security forces fired rounds of live ammunition and military-grade tear gas grenades in an attempt to disperse crowds…Demonstrations showed no sign of abating in the capital, with one protester killed by smoke inhalation and at least 20 more injured after security forces opened fire on protesters attempting to cross the Al-Shuhada bridge. Three other bridges have been shut down in an effort to quash the rallies, paralysing traffic in the capital. Protests have been centered in Tahrir Square, on the eastern bank of the Tigris, as demonstrators have attempted to reach the heavily-fortified Green Zone which lies on the other side and houses government offices and foreign embassies. Two more protesters were killed in renewed clashes in Karbala on Wednesday, as the holy city becomes a flashpoint of the anti-government demonstrations.”
Umm Qasr & Shatrah – protesters seize armoured vehicle as 3 die whilst state tries to re-open port blocked for 3 days; internet shut down
“After the clashes in Shatrah, protesters set fire to the homes of three local members of parliament, according to protesters and media reports. Other protesters said there were clashes between demonstrators and security forces on Tuesday night in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, where protesters attacked the Iranian Consulate earlier this week…In Baghdad, protesters crossed a Tigris River bridge on Monday and clashed with security forces near the headquarters of state-run TV and the office of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. At least five protesters and a member of the security forces were killed, and scores were wounded. The protesters set tires and trash containers ablaze within 500 meters (yards) of the offices, sending huge clouds of black smoke into the sky. Netblocks, a group that monitors worldwide internet access, reported a major shutdown by Iraqi authorities overnight, with usage in Baghdad and southern Iraq dropping to 19% of normal. It said the internet was partially restored early Tuesday, but that “some networks are still offline and social media and messaging apps remain blocked or degraded.” Authorities shut down internet access and blocked social media sites several times during the protests in October, but Netblocks said the latest shutdown was the most severe yet.”
Clashes continue – 5 dead (videos and links)
“The young generations no longer believe in political parties and leadership. Instead, they have increasingly resorted to trade unions and professional syndicates to voice their opinions… Groups that are far removed from any political parties were responsible for organising the demonstrations. “
“Roads closed by order of the people,” read a banner in a road that was blocked with burning tyres and barbed wire. University-age demonstrators, meanwhile, stopped traffic by parking cars in the middle of main thoroughfares, as police officers manning nearby checkpoints looked on without intervening. Other students took part in sit-ins at their schools, while the country’s national teachers union extended the strike they launched last week. Engineering, doctors and lawyers’ syndicates have all backed the demonstrations. Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Baghdad, said the day was “anything but a typical start to the work week”. “Teachers are on strike, [classes] in Baghdad and other cities are cancelled,” Ghoneim said, adding that students were later expected to stage a protest in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad. “In the eastern portion of Baghdad, the roads are an absolute mess. Protesters are blocking many major intersections, they are lighting tyres on fire making it difficult for people to get to work. As a result, various government offices and businesses have been closed.” Demonstrators also blocked roads in the country’s south, as schools and government offices closed for the day. South of Basra, they blocked the highway leading to the Umm Qasr port, after security forces attempted to disperse a sit-in a day earlier. In the eastern city of Kut, Tahseen Nasser, a 25-year-old protester, told AFP news agency: “We decided to cut the roads as a message to the government that we will keep protesting until the corrupt people and thieves are kicked out and the regime falls…We’re not allowing government workers to reach their offices, just those in humanitarian fields,” including hospitals and police officers, he said.” Police officers – humanitarian? Though trying to stop cops would likely lead to a shoot-out, there’s no need to justify avoiding this by claiming that cops are somehow “humanitarian”, especially after the massacre of over 200 people over the last month.
“Port operations, which receives the vast majority of Iraqi imports of grains, vegetable oils and sugar… have been completely paralyzed since Wednesday. Protesters first blocked their entry a day earlier, preventing trucks carrying goods from entering or leaving the facility and causing some International shipping lines to stop operations there”
“We want a total change of government, we don’t want one or two officials fired and replaced with other corrupt ones. We want to completely uproot the government,” said protester Hussein, who did not give a last name, in Tahrir Square. “They think we will protest for one or two days then go home. No, we are staying here until the government is uprooted.” Protesters from across Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic divides thronged the centre of Baghdad in a show of fury at an elite they see as deeply corrupt, beholden to foreign powers and responsible for daily privations and shambolic public services. Protests also took place in seven other provinces, mostly in the southern Shi’ite heartland. Thousands gathered in Nassiriya, Diwaniya and oil-rich Basra while hundreds hit the streets in Hilla, Samawa, and the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf.”
“The deaths in Karbala come after three people died on Monday in the southern city of Nasiriyah from wounds sustained in earlier protests, according to medical sources. Security forces also used tear gas to disperse hundreds of school and university students who joined the protests in Baghdad on Monday. Two soldiers were reportedly seen beating high school students with batons in the Iraqi capital, actions that were condemned by the Iraqi Defense Ministry, which said the soldiers did not represent the Iraqi military as a whole. In an attempt to quell protests, a curfew was introduced in Baghdad on Monday.”
“At least two anti-government protesters were killed and 105 were wounded in clashes with security forces in central Baghdad on Monday as thousands of students took to the streets in defiance of a government order and tear gas from security forces. The students skipped classes at several universities and secondary schools in Baghdad and across Iraq’s majority-Shiite south on Monday to take part in the protests, despite the government ordering schools and universities to operate normally. It was not clear how many students were among those killed and wounded. The demonstrations are fueled by anger at corruption, economic stagnation and poor public services. “It’s a student revolution, no to the government, no to parties!” demonstrators chanted in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests. Protesters have camped out in the central roundabout and volunteers have brought them food, hoping to recreate the revolutionary atmosphere of similar rallies held across the region during and after the 2011 Arab Spring….At least 72 protesters have been killed since nationwide anti-government protests resumed on Friday, after 149 were killed during an earlier wave of protests this month.”
Over 60 killed as protesters torch dozens of provincial government buildings, party offices and offices belonging to factions of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force
“Thousands of young Iraqis have again amassed in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, shouting “they’re all thieves” on Friday, 25 October. Security forces tried to disperse them with tear gas and warning shots. Two protesters were killed in the morning, according to the Government Commission for Human Rights. “According to preliminary reports, they were hit in the face with a tear gas grenade,” Ali Al-Bayati, a member of the Commission, told AFP, adding that nearly 100 demonstrators and members of the security forces order were injured.“
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 150 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