|2018–19 Iraqi protests|
|Part of 2018–19 Arab protests|
|Caused by||Unemployment and poverty|
Poor basic services
Growth of ISIL
Dismissal of army commander Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2018–19 Iraqi protests over deteriorating economic conditions and state corruption started in July 2018 in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities, mainly in the central and southern provinces. During the latest nationwide protests erupting in October 2019, Iraqi security forces have killed over 100 people and over 6,000 have been injured, leading Iraq's president Barham Salih to call the actions of security forces "unacceptable."Some police have also been killed in the protests. The protests are the deadliest unrest in Iraq since the end of the civil war against ISIL in September 2017.
Corruption is pervasive at all levels of government in Iraq. Public survey from Transparency International indicates that a majority of general public is not satisfied with the government's current efforts in fighting corruption. Transparency International's 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the country 169th place out of 180 countries.
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq. Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions, as well as hosting multiethnic and multireligious environment, garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the "Centre of Learning".
Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 99% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with tiny minorities of Christians, Yarsans, Yezidis and Mandeans also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.
On 15 July, protests erupted in southern and central Iraq with protesters burning the headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah in Najaf and also sacking the city's airport. Protesters in southern Iraq have blockaded the border with Kuwait and have also occupied several oilfields. In response to the mass unrest the Iraqi Army redeployed forces in the north that were engaging ISIL and the White Flags group to the south to counter the rise in unrest.In response to the unrest flights from Iran to Najaf were diverted. During the protests in Basra two demonstrators were killed by Iraq's security apparatus, and protesters in Sadr City stormed the headquarters of the Iranian backed Badr Organization. On the next day, protesters in Basra began burning pictures of Khomeini and continued to storm the political offices of the Islamic Dawa Party, Badr Organization, and the National Wisdom Movement, the protesters also demonstrated against Iranian drainage of the Shatt al-Arab waterway which has caused water in southern Iraq to become saline. The government started to crack down on the increasing violence during the protests, and there were eight reported deaths among the protesters. On 21 July, a Badr Organization militiaman also killed a 20-year-old protester in the city of Al Diwaniyah.
Najaf or Al-Najaf al-Ashraf also Baniqia is a city in central-south Iraq about 160 km south of Baghdad. Its estimated population in 2013 was 1,000,000 people. It is the capital of Najaf Governorate. It is widely considered the third holiest city of Shia Islam, the Shi'ite world's spiritual capital, and the center of Shi'ite political power in Iraq.
Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait, is a country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. As of 2016, Kuwait has a population of 4.5 million people: 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 3.2 million are expatriates. Expatriates account for 70% of the population.
The Iraqi Army, officially the Iraqi Ground Forces, is the ground force component of the Iraqi Armed Forces, having been active in various incarnations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. It was known as the Royal Iraqi Army up until the coup of July 1958.
On 3 September, Iraqi security forces killed Makki Yassir al-Kaabi, an Iraqi tribesman protesting near the provincial capital in Basra; in response to his death many tribesmen from Banu Ka'b have threatened to take up arms against the Iraqi government.A few days later, at least 7 people were killed and 30 wounded after a protest about the lack of public services in Basra was fired upon by security forces. On 8 September, an unknown group fired 4 Katyusha Rockets at the Basra Airport, no injuries or casualties were reported. The US consulate was situated at the airport, and it expressed concern for the developments in Iraq. No one had claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.
The Banu Ka'b are an Arab nomadic tribe originating in the Najd region of Arabia, who often raided, then settled various areas of southern and central Ottoman Iraq, in cities such as Basra and Nasariyah, and also across the border in the southernmost region of Khuzestan Province of Persia, particularly near the city of Khorramshahr. From the early 18th century onwards, the Banu Ka'b began converting from Sunni to Shia Islam.
Basra is an Iraqi city located on the Shatt al-Arab. It had an estimated population of 2.5 million in 2012. Basra is also Iraq's main port, although it does not have deep water access, which is handled at the port of Umm Qasr.
The Katyusha multiple rocket launcher is a type of rocket artillery first built and fielded by the Soviet Union in World War II. Multiple rocket launchers such as these deliver explosives to a target area more quickly than conventional artillery, but with lower accuracy and requiring a longer time to reload. They are fragile compared to artillery guns, but are inexpensive, easy to produce, and usable on any chassis. The Katyushas of World War II, the first self-propelled artillery mass-produced by the Soviet Union, were usually mounted on ordinary trucks. This mobility gave the Katyusha, and other self-propelled artillery, another advantage: being able to deliver a large blow all at once, and then move before being located and attacked with counter-battery fire.
In October, two bodies of activists were found in Basra and suspected to be victims of assassinations carried out by Iranian-backed militias.
On 17 November, Sheikh Wessam al-Gharrawi, a leading figure during the protests against deteriorating public utilities and water contamination, was killed by unknown attackers outside his house in central Basra.
On 5 December, protesters demonstrating in Basra wore high-visibility vests, inspired by the French yellow vests movement. They demanded more job opportunities and better services. Iraqi security forces responded by firing live ammunition at the protesters but no injuries were reported.
The yellow vests movement or yellow jackets movement is a populist, grassroots revolutionary political movement for economic justice that began in France in October 2018. After an online petition posted in May had attracted nearly a million signatures, mass demonstrations began on 17 November. The movement is motivated by rising fuel prices and a high cost of living; it claims that a disproportionate burden of the government's tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes, especially in rural and peri-urban areas. The protesters have called for lower fuel taxes, a reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, a minimum-wage increase, the implementation of Citizens' initiative referendums, as well as the resignations of President Emmanuel Macron and the Second Philippe government.
On 20 June, Basra's summer protest returned as demonstrators gathered outside the city's new administrative headquarters to vent their anger about poor basic services and unemployment. The old headquarters were burnt down during 2018's months-long protest. Basra and the surrounding region produce about 90 per cent of the country's oil wealth but most of its residents have not benefited from it. Protesters blamed the Basra's authorities for the city's problems, from a lack of job opportunities to unreliable and poor public utilities. Riot police were deployed at the scene but the protest remained peaceful.
Main Article: 2019 Iraqi October Revolution
On 1 and 2 October, protests erupted in Baghdad and in several provinces over high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption.Curfew was imposed in Baghdad and several southern cities, but protests continued on the following days. The authorities had also imposed an internet blackout and shut down 75% of the country's internet access. Extra security troops were deployed at Baghdad International Airport. For some days, the security forces had fired tear gas, water cannon, and live ammunition to disperse the crowds. The death toll had reached 38 on 3 October, including three security personnel. These nationwide protests are among the largest that the country has seen in decades.
The protests are anti-government in nature, although Iraq Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi praised the protesters' demands as "righteous" in a speech broadcast on state television, and he agreed to make greater effort to combat corruption and provide a basic wage for the poor.
By 4 October, the death toll had reached at least 46 from the nationwide protests.The security forces fired live rounds to disperse the crowd of demonstrators in Baghdad. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr leads the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, and he ordered his party's lawmakers to suspend participation in the parliament "until the government introduces a program that would serve all Iraqis".
For the first five days of protests, the death toll rose as snipers killed a number of protesters and policemen.On 5 October, The New York Times reported that at least 91 protestors were killed; CNN reported that at least 93 people were killed, including police. On 6 October, the Iraqi parliament's human rights commission said that at least 99 people have died and nearly 4,000 have been injured. Government officials claim that 104 people have been killed and 6,107 wounded, with 1,200 security personnel among the injured.
The Independent quoted on an anonymous Iraqi source as saying that pro-Iranian militia had occupied parts of Baghdad, controlled snipers firing on crowds, and ransacked ten or more television stations.Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said at a press conference that “malicious hands” were targeting protesters and security forces alike, though the security force had also fired on the protesters, and Maan did not specify who these actors were.
As of October 7, Iraqi security forces had killed over 100 people, and over 6,000 wounded people were being treated in Iraqi hospitals.The Iraqi military acknowledged that it had used "excessive force," and Iraq's president Barham Salih condemned the violence against protesters and media, asking Iraqi security personnel to respect the rights of Iraqi citizens.
The following is a timeline of major events during the Iraq War, following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Sayyid Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, also known as Shaheed al-Mehraab, was a senior Iraqi Shia cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Al-Hakim spent more than 20 years in exile in Iran and returned to Iraq on 12 May 2003. Al-Hakim was a contemporary of Ayatollah Khomeini, and The Guardian compared the two in terms of their times in exile and their support in their respective homelands. After his return to Iraq, al-Hakim's life was in danger because of his work to encourage Shiite resistance to Saddam Hussein and from a rivalry with Ayatollah Muqtada al-Sadr, the son of the late Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, who had himself been assassinated in Najaf in 1999. Al-Hakim was assassinated in a bomb attack in Najaf in 2003 when aged 63 years old. The bombing may have been carried out by a member of Saddam's regime (Ba'ath), with the attack coming as al-Hakim was leaving the shrine of Imam Ali. At least 75 others in the vicinity also died in the bombing.
The Peace Companies, frequently mistranslated as Peace Brigades in US media, are an Iraqi armed group linked to Iraq's Shia community. They are a 2014 revival of the Mahdi Army that was created by the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003 and disbanded in 2008.
Amarah, also spelled Amara, is a lur city in south-eastern Iraq, located on a low ridge next to the Tigris River waterway south of Baghdad about 50 km from the border with Iran. It lies at the northern tip of the marshlands between the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Iraqi insurgency of May 2003–February 2006 began following the completion of the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's rule in May 2003. The armed insurgent opposition to the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government lasted until early 2006, when it deteriorated into the Sectarian violence, the most violent phase of the Iraq War.
The Badr Organization, previously known as the Badr Brigades or Badr Corps, is an Iraqi political party headed by Hadi Al-Amiri. The Badr Brigade was the Iran-officered military wing of the Iran-based Shia Islamic party, Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), formed in 1982. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq most of Badr's fighters have entered the new Iraqi army and police force. Politically, Badr Brigade and SCIRI were considered to be one party since 2003, but have now unofficially separated with the Badr Organization now an official Iraqi political party. Badr Brigade forces, and their Iranian commanders, have come to prominence in 2014 fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq. It is a part of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
The Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004 was a series of operational offensives and various major engagements during the Iraq War. It was a turning point in the war: before, the conflict was simply US/Coalition versus insurgents, but the Spring Fighting marked the entrance of militias and religiously based militant Iraqi groups, such as the Mahdi Army into the arena of conflict.
The 2007 al-Askari mosque bombing occurred on 13 June 2007 at around 9 am local time at one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, the al-Askari Mosque, and has been attributed by Iran to the Iraqi Baath Party. While there were no injuries or deaths reported, the mosque's two ten-story minarets were destroyed in the attacks. This was the second bombing of the mosque, with the first bombing occurring on 22 February 2006 and destroying the mosque's golden dome.
Events in the year 2008 in Iraq.
The Battle of Basra began on 25 March 2008, when the Iraqi Army launched an operation to drive the Mahdi Army militia out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The operation was the first major operation to be planned and carried out by the Iraqi Army since the invasion of 2003.
The Iraq Spring Fighting of 2008 was a series of clashes between the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi Army supported by coalition forces, in southern Iraq and Baghdad, that began with an Iraqi offensive in Basra. The fighting followed a lull in the Civil war in Iraq and was the most serious crisis since October 2007.
Kata'ib Hezbollah or Hezbollah Brigades is an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group that is supported by Iran. It has been active in the Iraqi Civil War and the Syrian Civil War. During the Iraq War, the group fought against American invasion forces. The group is commanded by Iranian citizen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. All members of Kata'ib Hezbollah swear an oath of loyalty to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the group openly states that its loyalty is first and foremost to the leadership of Iran.
Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, also known as the Khazali Network, is an Iraqi Shi'a paramilitary group active in the Iraqi insurgency and Syrian Civil War. During the Iraq War it was known as Iraq's largest "Special Group", and claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks on American and Coalition forces. The group is currently fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as part of the Popular Moblization Forces. The group is funded and trained by Iran's Quds Force. In 2017, AAH created a party with the same name.
The Sheibani Network is an Iraqi smuggling network and Shi'a Insurgent group led by Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, an ex-commander of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq's Badr Brigades. The group is said to be used by Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force to supply Iraqi Special Groups. The group is alleged to be responsible for numerous attacks on Iraqi and Coalition forces. The network is said to consist of 280 members, divided in 17 units. US commanders have estimates that weapons smuggled and used by the group have been responsible for the death of 170 and injury of 600 American soldiers by February 2007. Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani himself is said to have fled to Tehran, Iran to evade capture, where he currently resides.
The 2011 Iraqi protests came in the wake of the Tunisian revolution and 2011 Egyptian revolution. They resulted in at least 45 deaths, including at least 29 on 25 February 2011, the "Day of Rage".
The 1999 Shia uprising in Iraq refers to a short period of unrest in Iraq in early 1999 following the killing of Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr by the then Ba'athist government of Iraq. The protests and ensuing violence were strongest in the heavily Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad, as well as southern majority Shiite cities such as Karbala, Nasiriyah, Kufa, Najaf, and Basra.
The 2012–13 Iraqi protests started on 21 December 2012 following a raid on the home of Sunni Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi and the arrest of 10 of his bodyguards. Beginning in Fallujah, the protests afterwards spread throughout Sunni Arab parts of Iraq. The protests centered on the issue of the alleged sectarianism of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Pro-Maliki protests also took place throughout central and southern Iraq, where there is a Shia Arab majority. In April 2013, sectarian violence escalated after the 2013 Hawija clashes. The protests continued throughout 2013, and in December Maliki used security forces to forcefully close down the main protest camp, in Ramadi and killing hundreds of civilian protesters in the process. Sunni groups, such as the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, took up arms in response, and joined forces with the General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries (GMCIR), a militant group made up of former Ba'athists, to conduct a military campaign against the Iraqi government. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would later grow out of this civil conflict.
The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), also known as the People's Mobilization Committee (PMC) and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 militias that are mostly Shia Muslim groups, but also including Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Yazidi individuals as well. The popular mobilization units have fought in nearly every major battle against ISIL. It has been called the new Iraqi Republican Guard after it was fully reorganized in early 2018 by its then-Commander in Chief Haider al-Abadi. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued "regulations to adapt the situation of the Popular Mobilization fighters," giving them ranks and salaries equivalent to other branches of the Iraqi military.
The 2015–16 Iraqi protests over deteriorating economic conditions and state corruption started on 16 July 2015 in Baghdad and most of Iraqi cities, mainly in the central and southern provinces.