Connect with us
[adrotate group="1"]

Middle East News

Several killed as Iraq protests escalate, spread nationwide

At least three protesters and one policeman have been killed in Iraq’s southern city of Nasiriya, according to a monitoring group, after nationwide anti-government protests devolved into violence that saw security forces fire live rounds and tear gas for a second straight day.  The deaths on Wednesday came a day after at least two protesters – one…

Published

on

Several killed as Iraq protests escalate, spread nationwide

At least three protesters and one policeman have been killed in Iraq’s southern city of Nasiriya, according to a monitoring group, after nationwide anti-government protests devolved into violence that saw security forces fire live rounds and tear gas for a second straight day. 

The deaths on Wednesday came a day after at least two protesters – one in the capital, Baghdad, and one in Nasiriya – were killed and hundreds of people were wounded in clashes between police and protesters angry at  unemployment, corruption and poor public services.

The nationwide rallies are the largest display of public anger against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s year-old government. 

Mustafa Saadoon, director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera three protesters and one policeman were killed in Nasiriya during clashes on Wednesday. At least 78 people were also wounded, he said.

News agencies quoted medical and security sources as saying that the death toll over the past two days stood at nine. The figure could not be independently verified.

Later on Wednesday, authorities deployed counterterrorism troops in Nasiriya after police “lost control” when gun battles erupted between protesters and security forces, police sources told Reuters news agency. Curfews were later imposed in Nasiriya and two other southern cities, Amara and Hilla, they added.

Meanwhile, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said online coverage had been cut off across much of the country, including Baghdad, with connectivity falling below 70 percent.

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against state corruption, failing public services and unemployment in Najaf [Haidar Hamdani/AFP]

In the capital, Tahrir Square was sealed off on Wednesday by heavily armed soldiers and dozens of riot policemen, with some demonstrators gathering around the edges. Hundreds of protesters, including university graduates, had rallied there on Tuesday. 

Protesters on Wednesday also took to the streets in al-Shaab in north Baghdad and Zafaraniya in the south, with riot police attempting to disperse them with tear gas and live rounds fired in the air.

“I came out today in support of my brothers in Tahrir Square,” Abdallah Walid told AFP news agency in Zafaraniya, where protesters were burning tyres on streets lined with riot police vehicles.

“We want jobs and better public services. We’ve been demanding them for years and the government has never responded,” the 27-year-old said.

AFP, citing medical sources, said some 60 people were wounded across the capital, including nine from bullets.

“All through the evening, we’ve been hearing the sound of gun fire and sirens,” said Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad. The demonstrations have spread to several cities across the country, with demonstrators in Najaf reportedly setting fire to government buildings, he said. 

The Iraqi government has been taken by surprise over the size of the rallies, which were mostly organised on social media, he said, adding: “The government appears to be very concerned about these protests spreading. They are restricting live broadcasts from the protest scene, as well as social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.” 

Meanwhile, protesters tried to break into the municipality building in the eastern city of Kut, while hundreds took to the streets of Hilla and Diwaniya, according to Reuters.

Thousands gathered in the oil-rich southern city of Basra in front of the provincial administration building but so far protests there were peaceful.

Peaceful protests were also reported in Samawa, while small rallies were held in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Tikrit, as well as in the eastern province of Diyala, Reuters reported.

Anti-government protesters gather in front of the governor’s office in Kirkuk, Iraq on October 2, 2019 [Anadolu]

Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday chaired an emergency meeting of the national security council, which later issued a statement regretting deaths and injuries on both sides during Tuesday’s protests and affirming the right to protest and freedom of expression. It made no mention of Wednesday’s protests.

“The council affirms the right to protest, freedom of expression, and the protesters’ legitimate demands, but at the same time condemns the acts of vandalism that accompanied the protests,” it said.

Appropriate measures to protect citizens, as well as public and private property would be taken, it added.

All military units were placed on high alert, the defence ministry said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the prime minister had promised jobs for unemployed graduates and instructed the oil ministry and other government bodies to start including a 50 percent quota for local workers in subsequent contracts with foreign companies.

According to the World Bank, youth unemployment in Iraq is more than 20 percent.

Iraqi protesters in Basra shout slogans during a demonstration against state corruption, failing public services and unemployment, on October 2, 2019 [Hussein Faleh/AFP] 

Ali al-Nashmi, a professor of international relations at the Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, described the latest protests as the “most serious we have seen yet”. 

“The protesters are raising many slogans – they want jobs, they want to fight against corruption, they want electricity. They don’t have one slogan or one leader. They are looking for everything. And they are not followers of a specific religious or political party. Therefore it will be difficult to control or negotiate with them.” 

Late on Wednesday, Moqtada al-Sadr, a powerful Shia leader who has led previous demonstrations, called for “peaceful protests and a general strike” after calling for an investigation into the violence.

Yusuf Alabarda, an analyst based in Turkey’s Ankara, called the situation in Iraq “very fragile”.

“This is a war-torn country, very close to being a failed state. And there are rivalries among United States, Iran and Turkey. And for these reasons, the situation inside Iraq is very fragile,” he told Al Jazeera. 

However, “in the short term, this government will not be able to alter the economic situation,” he said. “But changing governments will not help fight against economic issues, corruption, terrorism or the security threats.” 

At least two protesters killed and hundreds injured in Iraq after police clashed with anti-government demonstrators rallying against unemployment and corruption. pic.twitter.com/G5Yn3GZT8m
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) October 2, 2019

The United Nations expressed concern over the violence and urged calm, with the special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, reaffirming in a statement the right to protest.

Iraq’s President Barham Salih, in a post on Twitter late on Tuesday, also reminded security forces that “peaceful protest is a constitutional right”. He added: “Our young Iraqi children are looking for reform and jobs, and our duty is to meet these legitimate demands.”

Parliament, too, has ordered an investigation into the violence and its human rights committee criticised security forces for their “suppression” of the demonstrations.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

code

Middle East News

Polish court allows stricter abortion law, sparking outcry

Chief justice says existing legislation that allowed abortion of malformed fetuses was ‘incompatible’ with the constitution.Poland’s constitutional court has struck down a provision of the country’s abortion law allowing Europe’s most strict legislation to be further tightened and provoking an outcry from rights groups. Chief justice Julia Przylebska said in a ruling on Thursday existing…

Published

on

By

Polish court allows stricter abortion law, sparking outcry

Chief justice says existing legislation that allowed abortion of malformed fetuses was ‘incompatible’ with the constitution.Poland’s constitutional court has struck down a provision of the country’s abortion law allowing Europe’s most strict legislation to be further tightened and provoking an outcry from rights groups.
Chief justice Julia Przylebska said in a ruling on Thursday existing legislation, which allows for the abortion of malformed fetuses, was “incompatible” with the constitution.
The verdict, which is final and cannot be appealed, drew immediate condemnation from the Council of Europe, whose Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it “a sad day for #WomensRights”.

Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in #Poland amounts to a ban & violates #HumanRights. Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford & even greater ordeal for all others. A sad day for #WomensRights.
— Commissioner for Human Rights (@CommissionerHR) October 22, 2020

“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in #Poland amounts to a ban & violates #HumanRights,” Mijatovic tweeted.
“Today’s ruling … means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford & even greater ordeal for all others.”
Since 1993, Poland has only allowed abortions in case of rape or incest, a threat to the mother’s life or a deformed fetus.
Now the court ruling could pave the way for legislators from the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party to approve draft legislation that would ban pregnancy terminations in the case of fetuses with congenital birth defects.
Many Polish women bridled when PiS backed the bill originating as a popular petition earlier this year, prompting conservative legislators to refer the matter to the constitutional court.
The tribunal, whose main role is to ensure any law complies with the constitution, underwent government reforms in 2016 that led critics to contend it is stacked with PiS allies.
Police separate pro-choice activists, right, carrying a poster saying ‘We are not incubators’ from anti-abortion rights protesters, left, in front of Poland’s constitutional court in Warsaw [Wojtek Radwanski/AFP]‘Blood on your hands’
Former liberal Polish Prime Minister and PiS critic Donald Tusk called the timing of the abortion issue “political wickedness”.
“Throwing the topic of abortion and a ruling by a pseudo-court into the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynical,” the head of the European People’s Party tweeted.
The NGO Action Democracy, which had gathered more than 210,000 signatures against the stricter law, issued a statement saying the court delivered “a shameful, political verdict dictated by right-wing fundamentalists”.
Leftist legislator Barbara Nowacka blamed the devoutly Catholic country’s bishops, telling them at a news conference in parliament: “You have blood on your hands.”
PiS-allied President Andrzej Duda has said if approved by the parliament he would sign the draft legislation into law.
On Thursday, his spokesman Blazej Spychalski said “the president’s views on this matter are well-known and haven’t changed. We’re satisfied that the constitutional court sided with life”, he was quoted by the Polish news agency PAP as saying.
The country of 38 million people sees fewer than 2,000 legal abortions a year, but women’s groups estimate up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.
An attempt by the PiS government to tighten the abortion law in 2016 was scrapped following nationwide protests by tens of thousands of women dressed in black.

Continue Reading

Middle East News

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York. “Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s…

Published

on

By

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.

“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.

Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.

The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.

Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.

Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.

While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.

The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”

In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”

Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.

Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.

But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.

“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.

“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.

The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.

Continue Reading

Middle East News

The poisoning of Alexey Navalny: Five key things to know

What happened on the day Navalny fell ill? On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13.  He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a…

Published

on

By

The poisoning of Alexey Navalny: Five key things to know

What happened on the day Navalny fell ill?
On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13. 
He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a cup of tea. He was on the way to Moscow.
In the first half-hour of the flight, he fell ill and witnesses said he screamed in pain. He was later in a coma.
He was airlifted to Germany’s capital, a six-hour flight, to the Berlin Charite hospital.The plane made an emergency landing at Omsk. He received treatment in the Russian city, where doctors said he was too unwell to be moved, but two days later on August 22, a Saturday, they said his life was not in danger.
Was he poisoned? 
Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, a claim several European countries support.
A laboratory in Germany said it had confirmation on September 2, followed by laboratories in France and Sweden on September 14.
Samples from Navalny have also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for testing.
Russia says there is no evidence to prove Navalny was poisoned, while its ally Belarus has also doubted the claim. The doctors in Omsk said they had not detected poisonous substances in Navalny’s body. 
US President Donald Trump has been criticised for towing Russia’s line, saying on September 4 – two days after Germany’s claim to have “unequivocal evidence” – that “we have not had any proof yet”.
How is Navalny’s condition now?
On September 7, more than two weeks after falling ill on the plane, Navalny’s doctors in Germany said he was out of a coma and that his condition was improving. His spokeswoman said, “Gradually, he will be switched off from a ventilator.”
On September 15, Navalny posted on Instagram that he was breathing alone. He has said he plans to return to Russia. 
If he was poisoned, who may have poisoned him and where?
Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned at the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin – a claim the Kremlin has strongly denied. 
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh had initially said she believed Navalny’s tea at the airport was poisoned, but on September 17, his team said the nerve agent was detected on an empty water bottle from his hotel room in the Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned there and not at the airport. 
What effect has the alleged poisoning had?
The alleged attack has widened a rift between Europe and Russia, with Germany and France leading calls for a full investigation but stopping short of outrightly blaming the Russian government. 
MEPs have called for sanctions against Russia, saying on September 17, “The poison used, belonging to the ‘Novichok group’, can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, while the United Kingdom has summoned the Russian envoy over the incident.
For its part, Moscow rejects what it called the politicisation of the issue.
Significantly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which transfers Russian gas to Germany. Once again, the Kremlin has warned not to involve the Navalny case in any discussion about the pipeline, with Dmitry Peskov saying on September 16, “It should stop being mentioned in the context of any politicisation.”
 
A timeline of events surrounding the alleged poisoning attack on Navalny: 
August 20 – Navalny falls ill on flight; plane makes emergency landing in Omsk; his spokeswoman says he was poisoned, perhaps by the tea he drank at the airport
August 22 – Navalny airlifted to Berlin Charite hospital 
September 2 – Germany says it has ‘unequivocal evidence’ Navalny was poisoned, Russia responds by saying the claim is not backed by evidence
September 4 – US President Donald Trump says ‘we do not have any proof yet’
September 6 – Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, threatens action over gas pipeline project, saying, ‘I hope the Russians don’t force us to change our position on Nord Stream 2’
September 7 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma
September 11-13 – Russia holds local elections; Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities
September 15 – Navalny posts on Instagram that he is breathing alone
September 16 – Kremlin spokesman warns against politicising Navalny issue in discussions over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Germany
September 17 – Navalny’s team now suspects he was poisoned in his hotel room, not the airport, citing traces of nerve agent on an empty water bottle
September 17 – MEPs call for sanctions against Russia 

Continue Reading
error: Content is protected !!