Takeaways for August 28-September 04, 2015:
- The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clashed with Katai’b Hezbollah (KH) in eastern Baghdad on September 3. Although brief, the violent confrontation resulted in the death of one Iraqi soldier and the injury of three other. The incident took place in the aftermath of the kidnap of 18 Turkish contractors in Baghdad. Competing accounts have emerged about the origin of the clashes. Regardless, this is a concerning escalation given the ongoing war against ISIS and the need to focus on defeating ISIS. KH is a formation within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs). This is not the first time the ISF have clashed with PMU components. Previously, the ISF clashed with Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Baghdad. The ISF will likely continue to assert its security primacy in Baghdad. It will be important to watch how relations develop between the ISF and PMUs.
- Friday in Iraq has become “Protest Day.” Today and last Friday, protesters throughout the country took to the streets to voice their discontent. Protester demands center on corruption and the lack of basic services. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi finds himself in a difficult position as he has to manage expectations that resulted from the introduction of his reform package. Although PM Abadi’s position in not threatened by the protests, implementing reform will require more determination and follow through.
- As the crisis continues, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are under growing financial pressure. The Iraqi Council of Representatives voted to allow for the provision of salaries for government employees displaced from ISIS-held areas. This measure can alleviate some of the financial burden and therefore has to be applied in a sustainable fashion.
Another challenge is education. As the new academic year begins, displaced students from Mosul University are demanding opportunities to continue their studies in Kirkuk. Iraqi lawmakers are also calling for more opportunities for displaced students.
- ISIS is reportedly using food as a weapon, requiring residents in the Hawijah district of Kirkuk and areas in Salah ad-Din to pledge their support to ISIS in order to receive food.
Baghdad Clashes between Iraqi Security Forces and formations of the Popular Mobilization Units
On September 2, unknown individuals wearing military uniforms in Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) kidnapped 18 contractors and workers from a stadium reconstruction site inSadr City, located in the eastern part of Baghdad. The kidnapped contractors included 17 Turkish workers.
On September 3, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clashed with members of Katai’b Hezbollah (KH), or the Hezbollah Brigades, in eastern Baghdad’s Palestine street . The clashes resulted in the death of one Iraqi soldier and injury of three others.
On September 4, Baghdad Operations Command announced that the ISF were pursuing leads with regards to the kidnapped Turkish contractors. For its part, the KH announced that the force that raided its Headquarters was looking for a recently-arrested senior member of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Hakim al-Zamili who is the head of the parliamentary Security and Defense Committee stated that the clashes were the result of a misunderstanding that one of the guards at the Baqiyat Allah Mosque had with the ISF.
Public Display of Discontent Continues in Iraq
On August 28, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered security authorities to make the necessary arrangements to open the Green Zone for Iraqi citizens. PM Abadi also demanded the security forces to open the main streets that were closed by political parties and to implement plans to protect people who need to use government facilities.
On September 2, the office of PM Abadi emphasized the need to reduce the Personal Security Detail (PSD) of senior government officials. Abadi stated that “these regiments need to be restructured in order to do their jobs more effectively and protect the country.” He also added that the numbers of security guard regiments must be reduced down up to 90%.
On August 28, demonstrations continued in Baghdad as thousands of protesters flooded al-Tahrir square demanding the continuation of reforms and fighting corruption.
On September 4, protests also took place in Baghdad, Basra, and other locations in Iraq. On the same day, In Wasit, thousands demonstrated in front of the government building requesting that PM Haider al-Abadi resign from his ruling Dawa party. Protests also took place in Maysan Nassiriyah, Karbala, Basra, and Hilla. These protests had varying demands but were mostly focused on fighting corruption.
On August 28, Governor of Qadisiyah, Ammar al-Madani, announced his resignation to PM Haider al-Abadi and it’s currently awaiting his approval. Al-Madani indicated that “the only way to implement the reform plans in al-Diwaniya province is to receive direct support from the Prime Minister to achieve administrative stability, and end corruption and private political interests that resulted in the destruction of the country.” On the same day, the governor of Muthana, Ibrahim al-Mayali, resigned from his post in response to the demands of demonstrations in the province.
On August 29, Iraq’s Parliament known as the Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) questioned the Minister of Electricity, Qassim al-Fahdawi, in the presence of 260 representatives. After the session ended, the parliament voted to accept al-Fahdawi’s responses to the questions that were directed at him.
On August 30, the governor of Dhi Qar Yehya Mohammed Baqir al-Nasseri authorized the chairmen and members of 20 special committees full legal powers to begin working on the ground to follow-up with and meet the demands of the demonstrators starting Monday August 31.
On August 30, Najaf’s Provincial Council voted to dismiss of the Mayor of Kufa, Hamza al-Alyawi, from office as well as replacing nine directors of governmental departments who have been in office for over 4 years. Director of Communications for the council, Mohammed al-Khuza’i, indicated that the “governor will appoint a new acting administrator for Kufa until the election of a new mayor.” On September 3, Najaf’s Provincial Council elected Luay al-Yasiri as the new governor for the province. Fifteen of the council’s 28 members were present during the voting.
Demands for Financial Support to IDPs and Mosul University Students Seek Education in Kirkuk
On August 30 the Iraqi Parliament voted to pay the salaries of employees displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
On August 30, dozens of students from Mosul University protested near Kirkuk’s old university demanding local officials to open a branch of their university inside Kirkuk. Students demonstrated because they did not want to lose a new academic year.
On August 31, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights requested the establishment of a new international fund to support the growing needs of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq. This comes in light of the increasing number of IDPs and deteriorating financial situation in the country. The commission also revealed that fifty seven IDPs from Tal Afar died as a result of traffic accidents. This is due to the fact that the IDP camp is located on the highway between Karbala and Najaf.
On September 1, Anbar CoR member Adil al-Mahalawi, requested the Prime Minister to take urgent measures to distribute financial aid for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Al-Mahalawi also called on the Ministry of Education to develop necessary solutions that will provide displaced students the opportunities to complete their studies.
ISIS Uses Supplies to Coerce Loyalty and Families Seek Refuge in Kirkuk
On September 1, anonymous activists stated that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is giving flour, oil, and gas to people willing to pledge their allegiance to the organization in two cities facing food and fuel shortages.
On August 31, Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Salim al-Juburi, arrived to Khanaqin district in Diyala along with the Minister of Defense, Khalid al-Obaidi, to discuss the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to areas cleared of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and how to best provide them with humanitarian aid. On the same day, nearly 800 families living in villages around Daquq, south of Kirkuk fled their homes and sought refuge due to ongoing clashes between ISIS and anti-ISIS forces including the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. The total number of people who fled the fighting is almost 6000 people who are now reportedly going to be received in Kirkuk. On September 3, the Directorate of Displacement and Migration in Kirkuk announced the return of 70 displaced families to Tikrit.
Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow and Director of ISHM at EPIC and he would like to thank Taif Jany and Sarah Walker for their research support.
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