ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Protests renewed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on Sunday after an explosive device detonated at a Saturday memorial ceremony to commemorate those killed in Iraq’s protest movement, an activist has confirmed to Rudaw English.
Three people were injured at an explosion at the Tishreen martyrs ceremony, activist Muhammad al-Khayyat told Rudaw English on Sunday. One is in a critical condition.
Video shared to social media showed a group of protesters erecting tents in the city’s central al-Habboubi Square on Sunday in preparation for an open sit-in demanding authorities reveal those behind the killing of protesters and calling on the government to protect activists from threats, kidnappings, assassinations.
At least 600 people have been killed across Iraq and more than 18,000 injured since the protests began, according to figures released by Amnesty International last year.
In November 2020, protesters in Habboubi Square were forced out of their tents and shot at by supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leaving seven people dead and scores wounded. Protesters moved back into the square a week later and vowed to continue protesting.
In February, bloody clashes left several dead and wounded in the city.
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“We closed a number of official departments in the governorate, in addition to main roads in preparation for the open sit-in,” Khayyat said.
Protests said they reject Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s decision to appoint Abdul Ghani al-Asadi as the Dhi Qar governor after Nathim al-Waeli stepped down following bloody protests calling for his dismissal.
Local government officials in other provinces have also come under fire, accused of involvement in the kidnap of activists.
Haidar al-Khashan, who was kidnapped and held for several hours early Thursday by unknown gunmen, accused agencies affiliated to the Governor of Muthanna of kidnapping and threatening him on Sunday.
“Four people got out of a government Land Cruiser, kidnapped me in front of my mother, handcuffed me and put a bag on my head before taking me to an unknown place and interrogating me for an hour and a half,” Kashan said told Rudaw English on Sunday.
The people who interrogated Khashan said they were from Samawah, and threatened to kill him if he went to demonstrations against Governor Ahmed Manfi, according to Khashan.
“Today we kidnapped you and we will release you, but tomorrow we will finish you by placing a bullet in your head,” Khashan quoted the kidnappers as saying.
“What hurt me the most when I was kidnapped was my mother; she is still in shock,” Kashan said.
“I fear for my life now, I cannot go out alone at night, and I make sure to go out with my friends during the day,” he added.
A day after the incident Kashan was back on the streets, leading a large demonstration in the city of Samawah on Friday.
“We will not be afraid of such threats, and we will not back down,” he said, pledging to continue protesting until the local government is removed from power.