On Baghdad’s iconic al-Tahrir Square, scores of Iraqis from all walks of life—unified by unprecedented repression of authorities—persist in singing their hearts out for their country. In doing so, they try to silence the deafening rhythms of routine killing played by security forces slaughtering unarmed youth in broad daylight. Amid an embarrassing position from the international community, malicious and apathetic politicians—bred in the rotten corners of the notorious Green Zone—orchestrate a recurrent symphony of murder.
As the historic uprising sweeping the capital and other cities in the country’s south entered its second month, the crackdown got more brutal. Field medics poignantly say protesters were being targeted at head-level by tear gas and stun grenades, both on and underneath the two bridges of al-Jumhouriyah and al-Sinak. There, an unequal standoff has been taking place. On one end is the desperate unarmed youth with nothing but empty pockets, an Iraqi flag, and a will of steel. On the other end, well-equipped unchecked troops, repeatedly delivering headshots with expired grenades at the heads of innocent millennials.
Over 250 civilians have died since the uprising erupted on 1 October 2019 and more than ten thousand others have been wounded or maimed according to the parliament-affiliated Human Rights Committee and information provided by doctors, who privately said casualty numbers are actually higher than those in official statistics. Moreover, a recent report by the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq said October was the “worst month for freedom of journalism in Iraq since 2003,” with a recorded eighty-nine violations or assaults against journalists and media offices.
On 2 November, Reuters said security forces killed one more protester and wounded ninety-one others in Baghdad.
But despite the brutal repression, al-Tahrir has become a melting pot for Iraqis from all sects and religions. It continues to witness bigger protests day by day with significant participation by women and even people from other provinces including from the north.
Protesters have clearly declared that there will be no stepping back until the entire system and all the parties are uprooted. It is becoming personal to each individual on al-Tahrir. A lifetime of injustice and systematic marginalization, watching in helplessness their unattainable dreams being raped. Now they have bigger ones, a purpose in life. They have embarked on a mission to reclaim their homeland, and more killing will only lead to greater tenacity.
The protests in Iraq are characterized by a raw rejection of any attempt by a cleric or an armed group to jump on the bandwagon and eventually distort or put out the spontaneous movement. Protesters have also grown more daring in voicing their refusal of the growing interference of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Iraq’s affairs, with fissures becoming evident between security members on one hand and the government on the other—embodied by the public support of many troops and civil defense members for the protests and their denouncement to the violent crackdown.