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Thursday, 28th April 2011

Days of Rage: Protests and Repression in Iraq

Source: Amnesty International

From  the Introduction:

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets since early February 2011 to protest against the lack of water, electricity and other basic services, rising prices, unemployment and endemic corruption, and to demand greater civil and political rights. In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, demonstrators have also protested against the two main parties that have dominated local politics for decades and monopolized state resources.

Protests initially erupted in Iraq in mid-2010 over the government’s failure to provide basic services, but then stalled. For example, on 19 June thousands of people protested in Basra against the frequent power cuts. According to reports, at least one person was killed in front of the provincial council building when police fired on stone-throwing demonstrators. In response to this and other protests, the Electricity Minister resigned and on 25 June the Interior Ministry issued new regulations that make it extremely difficult to obtain officialauthorization to hold protest meetings or demonstrations.

The successful popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 encouraged Iraqis to defy the restrictions and resume demonstrations. Many protesters widened their calls to demand the resignation of local and central government representatives, or to protest against restrictions of civil and political rights. Protests built up until 25 February, when tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in cities across Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, in support of what they termed a “Day of Rage”.

The various forces under the control of the authorities and political parties, including security guards, armed forces and security forces, responded from the start with excessive force, killing and injuring protesters, and with frequent arrests. The first fatalities were on 16 February in the eastern city of Kut in Wasit province, and on 17 February in Sulaimaniya in the Kurdistan region. Activists told Amnesty International that the ferocity of the crackdown following the “Day of Rage” led to a decline in the number of protests in subsequent weeks, although protests have continued.

On several occasions, however, protestors have used violence - mainly by throwing stones at members of the security forces or public buildings, or on rare occasions by setting fire to public buildings. As a result, members of the security forces have been injured. On most such occasions, it appears that demonstrators only resorted to violence after security forces had used force against them, including sound bombs and live ammunition.

An Amnesty International fact-finding team visited the Kurdistan region of Iraq from 5-15 March 2011 to obtain first-hand information on recent human rights violations, especially in relation to pro-democracy demonstrations. Based mainly in Erbil and Sulaimaniya, the Amnesty International team collected testimonies from victims and witnesses. They also met pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as well as activists from elsewhere in Iraq.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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