Saturday, January 18, 2020

In Iraq, worries for the missing in Tahrir Square

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Protesters denounce the pressure and arrests by the police, who have reconquered the main bridges around Baghdad Square.

Time to Reading 5 min.

In Baghdad, November 11, 2019, the security forces tried to force the demonstrators back towards Tahrir Square, taking control of the three bridges that had been occupied by them in the previous two days. LAURENT VAN DER STOCKT FOR "THE WORLD"

At the top of the "Turkish restaurant", the flagship building of the power struggle in the center of Baghdad, the man with the flag holds his position overhanging Tahrir Square. In a sweeping movement, he twirls a banner bearing the effigy of the Shia Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad and central figure of Shiism. Behind him, on the roof, as on each floor, the number of young Iraqis who camp against the green zone has shrunk.

"On Sunday evening, the security forces sent us sound bombs, many young people were scared and left, explains Qarar, a 26-year-old worker. Their families had been pressing for days to come home. There are constantly rumors of attack and threats. We are angry because many abandon us, but even if Tahrir empties, we will stay here. "

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In the heart of Baghdad, protesters engaged in the battle of bridges

Alongside the revolutionary slogans and pictures of "martyrs" have appeared on the walls of the search notices. Under the picture of a smiling teenager, his name, a phone number and the mention " faded away " are written. Several demonstrators, like him, disappeared mysteriously. Others say they are threatened. "A man called me down the building by my first name, says Jamil. He told me to accompany him to his car to retrieve a martyr poster. He grabbed my arm but I escaped. He was in civilian clothes, but he was sure he was intelligence. " Hossam, another protester, was told by his family that men had gone to his house for questioning. "If the demonstration ends, I will go to Turkey, because otherwise they will stop me or kill me," he said.

Harassed protesters

Protesters in Baghdad, November 11, 2019.
Protesters in Baghdad, November 11, 2019. LAURENT VAN DER STOCKT FOR LEMONDE

After Saturday's recovery of bridges over the Tigris by security forces, protesters retreated to Tahrir Square. Those who camp on the sit-in have a hard time shutting their eyes at night. Regularly, the rumor of an imminent assault circulates. "People deliberately propagate these noises to get the protesters off the ground and it starts to work," Nour thinks, a caregiver. Every day, protesters harass the security forces in front of the Al-Sinak bridge, at the cost of wounded and dead, mowed with tear gas and live ammunition. The crackdown, which has already killed more than 319 people in Baghdad and the south of the country, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, adds a more insidious threat. Arrests and kidnappings, warnings and pressures, decimate the ranks of the protest.

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