in Baghdad, the thirst for revenge of the families of Sadr City martyrs

The inhabitants of the capital's popular district mourn their dead, killed during the mobilizations against the government.

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Protesters hold talks with members of the police in Sadr City (Iraq), a Shiite-majority city, on October 7, 2019.
Protesters hold talks with members of the police in Sadr City (Iraq), a Shiite-majority city, on October 7, 2019. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

The lamentations of the women rise from the kitchen, long, inconsolable crying which resounds in the mourning house of the district of Sadr City, in Baghdad. "The government, the parties in power: before, they were just thieves, they are now criminals. They killed our children who were demonstrating peacefully ", accuses Sheikh Djalal Abdel-Nabi, the leader of the tribal clan Al-Freijat.

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Sitting around him on mattresses on the floor, the men of the Muttar family nod in silence. The son of the family, Sajad, a 17-year-old high school student and tuk-tuk driver, is one of seven clan members killed in protests against the Iraqi government in Tahrir Square. He was shot in the heart on October 5th. "He was a loving, altruistic boy. He was not armed. He only wanted a better future »says Uncle Hassan Muttar Obeid, a 52-year-old worker.

"We do not have public services, no hospitals, deplorable schools," commented the worker Hassan Muttar Obeid

Like Sajad, hundreds of young men from Sadr City have joined Tahrir Square in central Baghdad, despite the unprecedented crackdown on the protest movement, which has claimed the lives of over 270 people sincest October. Linked by tribal solidarities, the working-class suburbs, with 3 million inhabitants, have nothing to offer to this youth. All there breathes misery: the broken streets, the cramped houses, the electric cables dangling, intermingled. "We do not have public services, no hospitals, deplorable schools. Everything goes from bad to worse: 90% of people do not have a real job here », commented Hassan Muttar Obeid.

Imam Hussein's portraits float on every street corner alongside those of Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the country's highest Shia authority, and Shiite populist leader Moqtada Al-Sadr. In this traditional bastion of the Sadrist current, many put their fate in the hands of the son of Ayatollah Mohamed Sadeq Al-Sadr, killed by Saddam Hussein in 1999. They were thousands to join his Mahdi Army in 2004, making neighborhood one of the fiercest foci of resistance to the US invasion. A myriad of Shiite militias close to Iran have since flourished in these poor streets, especially in the wake of the war against ISIS in 2014.

Increasing disillusionment

Two years after the end of the war, the rejection of Shiite Islamist parties and their armed groups is gaining ground in Sadr City. "These parties have been sharing power since 2003 and doing what they want with their armed arms. They do nothing for the people, they only seek to preserve their privileges and defend the interests of Iran, " says Mohamed Zougheir Al-Freiji, a 45-year-old official. To this growing disillusion is added today the thirst for " revenge ". "We want to bring down the regime. Why did you kill him? Sajjad was young and peaceful. Even Moqtada Al-Sadr did not protect the protesters as he claimed! "continues Uncle Mohamed.


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