Iraq on strike "until the fall of the regime"

Unions of teachers, engineers, doctors and lawyers have declared a general strike, paralyzing most public schools and administrations in the capital and south.

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Protesters stand near a wall where the "Youth Revolution" is tagged in Baghdad on Sunday, November 3, 2019. Khalid Mohammed / AP

Cut off roads, schools and administrations in Baghdad and southern Iraq closed: pressure increased in Iraq on Sunday, November 3, after a month of demonstrations demanding "The fall of the regime".

The challenge, born on the 1st October, was marked by deadly violence that officially killed at least 257 people. But since its resumption on October 24, it has taken a more festive turn and is now organized by students and unions. Together, they on Sunday increased calls for civil disobedience, while unions of teachers, engineers, doctors and lawyers declared the general strike, paralyzing most public schools and administrations of the capital and south.

Read our report: "We must remain united until the fall of the regime": in Baghdad, the protest of Tahrir Square resists repression

"We're sick of lies"

For several days, protesters have also blocked the road to the port of Umm Qasr, in the south of the country, raising concerns of the authorities for imports, including food. Dozens of boats have taken to the road without being able to unload their cargo, said a port source.

Signs that the authorities are worried about a significant economic impact, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi came out of his silence Sunday night, ensuring that "Many claims have already been met" and that it is necessary now "Return to normal life". But the promises of early elections, reforms of the hiring system and pensions, do nothing about it.

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"We start a campaign of civil disobedience because we are tired of the lies of the government and its so-called reforms"says Mohammed Al-Assadi, who is demonstrating in Nasiriyah, where the main roads and bridges are cut off.

In Baghdad, young protesters parked cars across roads, while processions of students and schoolchildren headed for Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests. In Kout, south of Baghdad, Tahssine Nasser, 25, explains that "Cut the roads" allows to send "A message to the government" : "We will stay in the street until the fall of the regime and the departure of the corrupt and thieves". In the Shia holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf, more and more religious students are participating in the protests.

Tahrir Square, November 2, 2019.
Tahrir Square, November 2, 2019. – / AFP

Snipers, killer grenades and kidnappings

This unprecedented mobilization is however threatened by a campaign of intimidation and violence, regularly denounced by the international community and human rights defenders.

During the first episode of demonstrations, fromst as of 6 October, 70% of the approximately 250 dead had been hit on the head or chest by sniper fire – snipers that the state still says it can not identify. Since the resumption of the movement, on October 24, no shooting with live bullets of the police was recorded in the capital, but about forty demonstrators were killed there. Deployed forces now fire teardrops, which are particularly heavy. These were responsible for at least five deaths in late October.

In addition to these deaths, bloggers and activists have been abducted and media outlets have been attacked. On Sunday, the Government Commission on Human Rights announced the abduction of Saba Mahdaoui, a doctor and activist, denouncing "Organized abduction operations" while another activist has just been released. Ms. Mahdaoui's mother and activists claimed that she had been kidnapped by men "Armed and masked on board pick-up" as she was returning from Tahrir in the night from Saturday to Sunday. "It's a shame for all Iraqi society"denounced the head of the parliamentary commission for human rights.

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has ironized that "Those who have been able to locate ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi are not able to locate Saba Mahdaoui and who abducted her.".

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