2018–19 Iraqi protests

2018–19 Iraqi protests
Part of 2018–19 Arab protests
احداث العراق.JPG
Scenes from the streets of Iraq during demonstrations across the country in 2016
Date15 July 2018 - 7 September 2019
Caused byUnemployment and poverty[1]

Poor basic services[1]
State corruption[1]
Energy crisis[2]
Sectarianism[citation needed]
Growth of ISIL[3]
Anti-Iranian sentiment[4][5]

Dismissal of army commander Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi[6]
Parties to the civil conflict

Sadrist Movement
White Vans Armed Group[7]
Ahmad al-Hassan followers[8]
Basra Tribesmen[9]

Lead figures
Muqtada al-Sadr[11]
Ahmad al-Hassan
Makki Yassir al-Kaabi [12]
Sheikh Wessam al-Gharrawi [13]
Fatalities: At least 8 police officers
at least 9 PMU militiamen[14]
Injuries: At least 1,200
(as of 6 October 2019)[15][16]
Fatalities: At least 222 protesters[17]
Injuries: At least 6,000
(as of 7 October 2019)[15]
260+ killed overall[18]

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 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."[19] Some police have also been killed in the protests.[15][20] The protests are the deadliest unrest in Iraq since the end of the civil war against ISIL in September 2017.[21]

2018 protests

On 15 July 2018, protests erupted in southern and central Iraq, with protesters burning the headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah in Najaf and sacking the city's airport. Protesters in southern Iraq have blockaded the border with Kuwait and occupied several oilfields. In response to the mass unrest, flights from Iran to Najaf were diverted,[22] and 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.[23] During 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.[24] 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.[25][26] The government started to crack down on the increasing violence during the protests, and there were eight reported deaths among the protesters.[27] On 21 July, a Badr Organization militiaman killed a 20-year-old protester in the city of Al Diwaniyah.[28][29][30]

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.[12] 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.[31] On 8 September, an unknown group fired 4 Katyusha rockets at 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.[32]

In October, two bodies of activists were found in Basra and suspected to be victims of assassinations carried out by Iranian-backed militias.[33]

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.[13]

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.[34]

2019 protests


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.[35]


Protesters in Tahrir Square in Baghdad in 24 October 2019

On 1 and 2 October, protests erupted in Baghdad and in several provinces over high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption.[1] Curfew was imposed in Baghdad and several southern cities, but protests continued on the following days. The authorities imposed an internet blackout and shut down 75% of the country's internet access.[20] Extra security troops were deployed at Baghdad International Airport.[20] For some days, the security forces fired tear gas, water cannon, and live ammunition to disperse the crowds. The death toll reached 38 on 3 October, including three security personnel. These nationwide protests were among the largest that the country had seen in decades.[20][36][37]

The protests were 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.[20]

By 4 October, the death toll had reached at least 46 from the nationwide protests.[38] The security forces fired live rounds to disperse the crowd of demonstrators in Baghdad.[39] Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his party's lawmakers to suspend participation in the parliament "until the government introduces a program that would serve all Iraqis".[38]

For the first five days of protests, the death toll rose as snipers killed a number of protesters and policemen.[40][41] On 5 October, The New York Times reported that at least 91 protestors were killed;[42] CNN reported that at least 93 people were killed, including police.[20] 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.[21] Government officials claim that 104 people have been killed and 6,107 wounded, with 1,200 security personnel among the injured.[43]

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.[44] 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.[44]

As of 7 October, Iraqi security forces had killed over 100 people, and over 6,000 wounded people were being treated in Iraqi hospitals.[19] 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.[19]

According to two anonymous Iraqi security officials, Iran-backed militias deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops during the protests. The sources told Reuters that militia leaders decided on their own to help put down the mass protests. A senior commander of one of the militias stated that his group was not involved in efforts to stop the protests or the resulting violence, and said Tehran consulted closely with government forces trying to quell the demonstrations.[45]

On 26 October, two leading commanders of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (an Iran-backed PMU group) were dragged out of an ambulance and lynched by angry protesters, after the Asa'ib HQ was torched. The chief of As'aib, Qais al-Khazaali, later identified the two as Wissam al-Alyawi and Issam al-Alyawi, and swore to take revenge "many times over" on what he said was an Israeli-backed movement.[46]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d "A new wave of Arab protesters say, 'It's the economy, stupid!'". CNN. 4 October 2019.
  2. ^ Williams, Jennifer (7 September 2018). "The violent protests in Iraq, explained". Vox. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  3. ^ "تنسيقيّات البصرة تُعلًّق التظاهرات وتطالب بملاحقة مندسّين من ولاية الجنوب". almadapaper.net. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Protests in Iraq turn into anti-Iranian demonstrations". Daily Sabah.
  5. ^ Abdul-Ahad, Ghaith (29 October 2019). "Iraq's young protesters count cost of a month of violence". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Iraq's government seems powerless to halt protests in its heartland". The Economist. 6 October 2019.
  7. ^ Supported by: Baath Party "In Basra, PM Abadi condemns 'unacceptable' Iran consulate attack". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  8. ^ BarmajaGroup.com. "قناة العهد الفضائية - لجنة ميسان الأمنية .. أتباع اليماني هم من هاجم الحقول والمنشآت في البصرة وميسان". www.alahad.tv.iq. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  9. ^ نت, العربية (2 September 2018). "لمواجهة رصاص الجيش العراقي.. عشائر البصرة ترفع السلاح". العربية نت. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  10. ^ "ستوديو الناس - القوات الأمنية تقتل المتظاهر"مكي الكعبي" وعشيرته تتوعد بالرد - تقرير: صباح الجاف". Retrieved 15 February 2019 – via www.youtube.com.
  11. ^ "العراق: مقتدى الصدر ينضم إلى آلاف المتظاهرين في النجف". فرانس 24 / France 24. 29 October 2019.
  12. ^ a b Robin-D'Cruz, Benedict (11 September 2018). "Analysis: How violent protests in Iraq could escalate". Retrieved 2 October 2019 – via www.washingtonpost.com.
  13. ^ a b "Prominent protest figure in Iraq's Basra assassinated - Iraqi News". Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  15. ^ a b c "Iraq protests: All the latest updates". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  16. ^ Cite error: The named reference was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  17. ^ "Masked men gun down Iraqi protesters in holy city of Karbala". 29 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Iraqi forces shoot dead 13 protesters in renewed crackdown". Reuters. 5 November 2019.
  19. ^ a b c Loveluck, Louisa; Salim, Mustafa (7 October 2019). "Iraqi military admits to 'excessive force' in crackdown against protesters". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Alkhshali, Hamdi; Tawfeeq, Mohammed; Qiblawi, Tamara (5 October 2019). "Iraq Prime Minister calls protesters' demands 'righteous,' as 93 killed in demonstrations". CNN. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Iraq protests: UN calls for end to 'senseless loss of life'". BBC. 6 October 2019.
  22. ^ "Iran flights to Iraq's Najaf redirected to Baghdad: Iranian state TV". Reuters. 15 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Mass protests sweep Iraq, target pro-Iran militias and parties". Jerusalem Post. 15 July 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  24. ^ "Two protesters killed in clashes with Iraqi police as unrest spreads in south". ABC News. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  25. ^ "VIDEO: Iraqi protesters burn pictures of Khomeini in Basra". english.alarabiya.net. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Iraqi protesters burn pictures of Khomeini in Basra". Al-Arabiya. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  27. ^ Turak, Natasha (19 July 2018). "More turmoil in Iraq as deadly protests ravage oil-rich south". CNBC. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  28. ^ Catherine, John (21 July 2018). "Badr militia security guard kills Iraqi protester". Kurdistan24. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  29. ^ "Two killed in protests on Friday: Iraq health ministry". Rudaw. 21 July 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  30. ^ "One Killed as Iraqi Protests Rage on". Asharq al-Awsat. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  31. ^ "Seven dead, more than 30 wounded in southern Iraq's rally". Yeni Şafak (in Turkish). Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  32. ^ Kurdistan24. "Katyusha rockets fired at Iraq's Basra airport". Kurdistan24. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ "'Yellow Jackets' inspire protesters thousands of miles from France". NBC News. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  35. ^ "Southern Iraq: Basra protests resume as temperatures and anger rise". The National. 20 June 2019.
  36. ^ "Iraq protests: Shots fired as demonstrators defy Baghdad curfew". BBC. 3 October 2019.
  37. ^ "Death toll climbs, unrest spreads in Iraq in days of protests". Reuters. 3 October 2019.
  38. ^ a b Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison (4 October 2019). "Dozens killed as uprising grips Iraq". Reuters. Retrieved 4 October 2019.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  39. ^ Scott Neuman (4 October 2019). "At Least 42 Dead After Days Of Violent Protests In Iraq". NPR. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  40. ^ "Iraq protests: Death toll soars after days of protests". BBC. 5 October 2019.
  41. ^ "Nearly 100 dead in Iraqi demonstrations". BBC. 5 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  42. ^ Rubin, Alissa J. (5 October 2019). "Deaths Mount as Protests Catch Iraqi Government Off Guard". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  43. ^ "More Than 100 Killed And Thousands Injured In Anti-Government Protests In Iraq". NPR.org. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  44. ^ a b Cockburn, Patrick (7 October 2019). "Iraq protests: Death tolls soars as pro-Iran militias accused of shooting protesters". The Independent. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  45. ^ "Exclusive: Iran-backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests - sources". Reuters. 17 October 2019.
  46. ^ Iraqi paramilitaries threaten revenge after offices torched.

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