Iraqi protesters continue relentlessly to defy the government’s reluctance to respond to their grievances, as well as the political deadlock and split that fail to support their simple demands of decent life conditions. In response, protesters managed to gain control of Ahrar Bridge in the Green Zone in the middle of Baghdad reaching to al-Khallani Square and many other squares and streets to reiterate unstoppably their refusal to give political forces under Adel Abdul Mahdi's government, 45 days to start implementing reforms. They insist that the government should resign.
The Iraqi government even resorted to threatening to use the Federal Anti-Terrorism Law in an attempt to crack down on the unstoppable rallies. The law denounces those resorting to violence, sabotaging public property and using firearms against security forces. Despite this, the protesters have blocked the entrance to Iraq's Khor al-Zubair commodities port near Basra, preventing lorries from entering, port officials told Reuters on Tuesday November 19th.
The closure of Khor al-Zubair comes a day after protesters once again blocked the entrance to Iraq's Umm Qasr commodities port near Basra, preventing employees and tankers from entering. ''Khor al-Zubair port is a strategic reserve to Umm Qasr port. Consequently, the closure of Umm Qasr port alone is not enough. So, we have closed Khor al-Zubair port. We will instruct the residents of al-Maqal port, to close it,'' an Iraqi protester said in footage released by Reuters on Tuesday.
The protesters are proving they can break all barriers of fear, and managed to challenge the danger of being killed or injured after losing more than 330 people and more than15,000 injured, according to unofficial statistics, in the rallies that started at the beginning of October in Baghdad and moved southwards to Basra, affecting almost ten Iraqi provinces.
In the capital, the strategic Baghdad Bridge Ahrar has become home to protesters demanding change, after they managed to regain control of the strategic route from security forces in the Green Zone. As the protests enter their seventh consecutive week, some demonstrators have decamped to the streets, sleeping, eating and living in makeshift camps set up next to concrete barricades to keep strategic parts of the city occupied.
Ahrar Bridge leads to the capital's fortified Green Zone, home of government buildings and some foreign embassies. Ahrar and other bridges leading to the zone have been, together with Tahrir Square, the main stage for the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in decades.
Despite Iraqi protesters’ differences in terms of age, gender, social class, tribe and location, the protesters are all gathered under one national umbrella, calling for a strong, united Iraq with a powerful and efficient government that does not allow outsiders to influence its policies. They cite in particular Iran’s infiltration into the Iraqi government and army which have been confirmed in the last two days by reliable reports from the United States.
United Nations human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said earlier that his agency is following up on reports of multiple arrests of demonstrators and activists. He said that protesters and volunteers who provided assistance during the demonstrations, reportedly have been abducted by unknown perpetrators.
“We are also disturbed by the statement by the High Judicial Council in Iraq that the Federal Anti-Terrorism Law would be applicable against those resorting to violence, sabotaging public property and using firearms against security forces. Our concern is centred on the fact that these are acts of terrorism, which may be punishable by death,” Colville said.
The UN is renewing its call on the government to investigate the whereabouts of the people who have gone missing, to investigate the killings promptly and to prosecute all those responsible for these crimes.
As Iraqi protesters demands are gaining momentum, international observers explain that the long-held grievances of the Iraqi people have brought about this 'organic and scattered nature' of the uprising. This has led analysts to believe that the rallies were not organised by hidden interests inside or outside Iraq, referring to some circulated allegations that the unrest had been triggered by Israel and the US.
The circulated press report documented the protesters’ activities in Baghdad’s squares, where they have established a daily newspaper called ‘Tuk-Tuk’. They have repaired the streets, pavements and fountains. They are operating clinics and other public facilities and have set up public tents where scholars and academics give lectures on the Iraqi constitution and laws.