in Baghdad, protest against Tahrir Square resists repression

In Iraq, the anti-government movement continues to mobilize beyond denominational divisions, against power but also its Iranian godfather.

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Protesters help injured comrade near Al-Sinak Bridge in Baghdad on 1 November.
Protesters help injured comrade near Al-Sinak Bridge in Baghdad on 1 November. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

After dark in Tahrir Square, in the center of Baghdad, the strident sirens of ambulances cover at intervals the rhythms of Iraqi music. A few meters from the speakers around which young feverish dancers gather, wounded arrive by tens, suffocating, Friday 1st November.

Carried at arm's length by their comrades or transported to the back of the tuk-tuk who rush through the crowd from the "front line", they are taken to the first improvised medical post. Some are unconscious, others shaken by tremors, shout in deep groans, sometimes to vomit. "We have no more oxygen, Cree Mousab, a 22-year-old military doctor who volunteers. They are poisoned. It's a massacre! "

A hundred yards away, the tear gas canisters are raining down on the young men, massed by hundreds behind walls of concrete blocks at the entrance of the Al-Joumhouria and Al-Sinak bridges. In front of them, separated by a hundred meters and other blocks of concrete, the security forces block their access to the "green zone", the ultra-secure district of the capital that brings together the country's institutions and the residences of politicians.

Protesters fall like flies. Few people wear gas masks. They often have only scarves on their face, soaked in a mixture of yeast and water, or masks of medical protection. And gloves to spread the grenades.

Read also Iraq: reopening of the "green zone", an ultra-secure neighborhood in Baghdad

"They do not shoot in the air. They are aiming at the head »

"The gas cartridges are out of date since 2014. In recent days, the chemical gas is different. It causes strange symptoms, severe suffocations and affects the nervous and muscular system. Some have died "says Dr. Ahmed, another volunteer, dubious. These concerns were relayed by the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, which on Friday called on the Ministry of Health to carry out analyzes. While already more than 105 people have been killed in Baghdad and in the south of the country since October 25, according to an interim report, the government commission also deplores an increased number of deaths caused by the shooting of rubber bullets.

One of the latest victims in Tahrir Square is a young volunteer paramedic, Nour Rahim, allegedly hit in the head by a tear gas grenade. "They do not shoot in the air. They aim at the head, Mohamed, a 27-year-old protester from the popular Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, said Mohamed. At least five others were killed by these grenades "Skull-breaker", ten times heavier than normal, confirmed Amnesty International in a report released Thursday. Serbian and Bulgarian origin, these grenades "Have never been seen before"says the NGO, saying that"They aim to kill and not to disperse". This new lethal weapon replaced live ammunition, the main cause of the death of more than 157 people during the first wave of demonstrations of the 1stst to 6 October.


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