1 March 2011
IRAQ: Protests turn to public mourning, White Group continues strategizing.
For the past two days, the protests in the central square of Suleimaniyah,
redubbed “Freedom Square,” have taken the form of public mourning. Last Saturday, 26 February, the protest
resulted in two deaths and eleven wounded as security forces opened fire on the
crowd shortly after a sound bomb apparently went off behind the stage.
After Saturday’s violence, protesters and security forces publicly reconciled,
with many soldiers reportedly throwing down their weapons, crying they would
not shoot at their brothers. The
protest on Monday saw a vastly reduced military presence.
Protesters on Sunday attached lists of names—of those killed, wounded, and
arrested during demonstrations for the past two weeks—to a wall on one end of
the square. Next to these lists is
a list of lawyers working pro bono to defend those arrested. The lawyers’ group is also working with
Amnesty International, which last week called on the Kurdistan regional
government to rein-in militias affiliated to political parties responsible for
The White Group, which had been forming a line between protesters and security
forces, continues to meet each day to strategize and adapt to new realities. On Sunday, these meetings resulted in
the decision to join the protest as normal participants. The protest organizers invited them to
form a human “peace wall” again starting Wednesday, 2 March.
Also on Monday, a parliamentary delegation visited the demonstration to listen
to protesters’ demands. The ruling
parties, however, were not represented in this delegation.