Iraq's President, PM, and Speaker must go, says Baghdad protest organizer

As large protests staged in Baghdad
One of the Baghdad’s protests organizers Ali Aziz speaking to NRT about the protests in the central and southern cities of Iraq on Tuesday December 10, 2019 (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — A protest organizer said on Tuesday (December 10) that a key demand of those in the streets is for all of Iraq's senior political leaders to resign, arguing that they no longer hold any authority.

Ali Aziz told NRT Digital Media that they wanted the “three presidencies” to step down, referring to President Barham Salih, caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, and Speaker of the Council of Representatives Mohammed al-Halbusi. Abdul Mahdi has already had his resignation accepted by parliament, but remains in power as caretaker.

Aziz added that the protesters were organizing larger demonstrations and would not let any outside party influence or alter their demands.

“We are not in favor of entering Baghdad’s Green Zone yet,” Aziz said of the neighborhood that lies directly across the Tigris River from the main protest site and includes many government buildings and foreign embassies.

“We will not prevent anyone from other cities in Iraq from entering the Tahrir Square and the security forces also cannot prevent anyone from entering the city and Tahrir Square,” he said.

Addressing the evolution of the protesters' demands since early October, Aziz said that “at first, the protests were peaceful, but the authorities and the government responded with violence. That changed the protesters demands into wanting the three presidencies to resign.”

He also criticized the government's apparent reluctance to ensure that so-called “third party groups,” like the Popular Mobilization Forces, do not attack protesters.

“Those who came to Baghdad and shot the protesters are the ones that have authority and have armed forced and militias in the country. The corrupted need to be need to be removed from authority,” he added.

Iraqis are staging large protests in Baghdad and the southern provinces on Tuesday, in response to the government's failure over the course of the last two months to meet demands for fundamental reform.

Protesters took to the streets at the beginning of October to demand an end to corruption, better public services, and employment, but since then the unrest has become a more general uprising seeking the ouster of the Iraq's political establishment.

More than 400 people have been killed in Baghdad and provinces in the south. Thousands have been injured in the unrest as the government and “third party groups” have used live ammunition, snipers, and tear gas in an attempt put down the protests.

(NRT Digital Media)