Iraq: Activists being persecuted, threatened ahead of October 25 protests

Iraq: Activists being persecuted, threatened ahead of October 25 protests
Authorities and pro-Iranian Shia militias are threatening Iraqis and persecuting activists in order to deter them from taking part in protests planned for October 25.
3 min read
15 October, 2022
Protests are planned for October 25 in Iraq amid a continuing political and economic crisis [Getty/archive]

Iraqi authorities are clamping down on activists in the south of the country ahead of planned protests on October 25, days after a new president was elected.

Security forces have begun raiding homes in pursuit of activists from the anti-corruption movement which organised protests in the war-scarred country three years ago against a deteriorating economy, rampant corruption and armed violence.

Activists from the city of Nasiriyah have reportedly fled north to the autonomous Kurdistan region after receiving threats from armed, pro-Iran Shia groups, warning them against taking part in protests.

Despite electing a new president earlier this week who in turned appointed a new prime minister designate to form a new cabinet – a year after parliamentary elections – the country remains deeply divided, particularly between pro-Iran Shia factions and supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Speaking to The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, activists said that the planned demonstrations "will be some of the biggest," and it is because of this that militias have intensified their crackdown, particularly in the Shia-majority provinces of Babil, Najaf, Dhi Qar and Basra in southern Iraq.

Thousands of Iraqis headed to the capital Baghdad earlier this month to mark the 2019 uprising, clashing with security forces.

Activist and journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi, famed for throwing his shoes at former US president George W. Bush in 2008, told The New Arab that prominent activists from the protest movement were in real danger.

"We are in danger. Everyone who was an activist and was opposed to the former government or new government, are in danger of being arrested or even assassinated, because the security agencies are in service of the current establishment," he said.

Laying out a list of objectives, Al-Zaidi told The New Arab that Iraqis against the current ruling elite were determined to continue their movement which began in 2019.

He and other activists have made calls for large gatherings on October 25, refusing any upcoming government "which will drag the country into abyss".

Zaidi said that activists were organising protests throughout Iraq to ensure that they would not be centralized in one place and become an easy target for security forces. 

"Our national and moral duty requires us to continue our struggle to achieve the aspirations of the people".

Ali al-Hujaimi, an activist from Najaf province Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the persecution by authorities and threats from militias were not surprising, but the judiciary had unexpectedly opened up old cases in a malicious manner to pursue activists and silence them.

Some activists have already been detained. Many have been killed in recent years with a lack of accountability in a nation plagued by chaos.