What happened in Tahrir square on Friday (when the Sadrists stayed away)?

Last Saturday (July 30th, 2016) Muqtada al-Sadr released a statement in which he announced that the Sadrist trend would not participate, for a period of 30 days, in ongoing protests against corruption in Baghdad’s Tahrir square. In his statement Sadr said that: ‘There are those who do not attend the protests because of the presence of the Sadrists, as they tell the public, so perhaps the absence of the Sadrists for a month will be a platform for their participation.’ Sadr also communicated that the purpose of the one month hiatus was to ‘make sure that the protests for reform do not become an exclusively Sadrist movement.’ Sadr increasingly refers directly to the cooperation with the civil trend in his statements (a noticeable shift in his discourse), here he commented that ‘this prevention [of protests] does not include our dear brothers in the civil trend, and others who desire reform, righteousness, and to save Iraq.’

So did the Sadrists follow through on this commitment to step back from the protests to allow other groups to participate? Did other groups step forward? Judging by what took place yesterday (Friday, 5th August), the answers are yes, and yes.

invitation ‘The Youth Will Not Tire’ is a slogan which emerged from a recent conference in Baghdad coordinated by the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) (I’ll be doing a detailed post on the conference in the near future). The image above shows this slogan deployed in one of the invitations to the August 5th protest widely circulated by civil trend groups on social media. The message translates as follows:

‘Believing in the necessity of persisting with our peaceful movement, which was contained and confirmed in the recommendations of the Young People of the Civil Trend’ conference [referred to above] we invite you to the broad participation in the protests this coming Friday (August 5th, 2016) to demand that the corrupt are held to account. Your stand will contribute to exposing them, and to putting pressure on authority to listen to the demands of our people who aspire to live in dignity and protect their [public]  services…’

I have been told that the Sadrists did indeed stay away from Tahrir square on Friday, and that activists from various others groups in the civil trend participated in the protest (including Mustamerroun, Madaniyoun and also student protest groups.) Turnout was inevitably lower without Sadrist participation, but nevertheless the photos below indicate that a decent number turned out which will be seen as a positive sign of potential for mobilisation across the civil trend.

 

The image below is taken from a video that was shared by student activists en route to the Friday protest chanting ‘Bread, Freedom, and a Civil State!’

videograb

Finally, it seems some activists were arrested by the authorities during Friday’s protest. This morning the names of three activists were being circulated in the hope of ascertaining confirmation of their release from custody. These were: Hammoudi al-Iraqi, Taha Khaled, and Muwaffaq al-Dujaili.

 

 

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