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Why Iraq’s Protesters Are Still in the Streets

Despite a promise of early elections, the government in Baghdad has yet to address demonstrators’ demands.

By , an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Banners cover an abandoned high-rise building in Baghdad on Nov. 6.
Banners cover an abandoned high-rise building in Baghdad on Nov. 6. SABAH ARAR/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Iraq’s protesters adjust their tactics after weeks of unrest, U.S. senators renew push for sanctions against Turkey, and Chile could investigate abuse at the hands of security forces.

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Iraqi Protesters Step Up Their Tactics

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Iraq’s protesters adjust their tactics after weeks of unrest, U.S. senators renew push for sanctions against Turkey, and Chile could investigate abuse at the hands of security forces.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Iraqi Protesters Step Up Their Tactics

Mass protests are still escalating in Iraq, with demonstrators blocking three main bridges in Baghdad this week as they continue to push back against the political elite. As Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi fails to quell the unrest, the protesters are adjusting their tactics, calling for civil disobedience and strikes. More than 260 people have been killed since the protests began last month, and one person was killed by security forces on Wednesday.

The protests are the largest in Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003, and the demonstrators are demanding the removal of the factions and political elites that came to power in the years afterward, who are seen as corrupt and subservient to other powers—such as the United States and Iran. So far, the protests have had broad participation: Some of the heroes of the protests have been Baghdad’s tuk-tuk drivers, the Washington Post reports.

Where are people protesting? The demonstrations have only grown since they resumed on Oct. 25, both in the capital and outside of it. Beyond Baghdad, more violent demonstrations have taken place throughout southern Iraq, with people targeting the Iranian Consulate in the city of Karbala and the headquarters of parties tied to Iran. Many of the protesters are from Shiite-majority cities—undermining Iran’s status as an advocate for the Shiite community.

What’s next? Abdul-Mahdi has appealed to protesters to stop sabotaging the economy: A blockade of Iraq’s main Persian Gulf port has cost it nearly $6 million, Reuters reports. The internet was blocked across much of the country on Wednesday. Iraqi President Barham Salih has said he will call for early elections once a new law goes into place, but politicians have yet to offer any immediate reforms to meet the protesters’ demands.

What We’re Following Today

U.S. senators push for sanctions, Erdogan confirms visit. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday, senators from both parties urged the administration to place sanctions on Turkey if it is violating the cease-fire agreement in northeastern Syria. The lawmakers cited reports that Turkish and Turkish-backed forces are moving beyond the so-called safe zone and attacking Syrian Kurds. Meanwhile, Turkish officials confirmed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington next week, after reports that he might call off the visit.

Chilean prosecutor seeks to investigate security forces. A prosecutor in Chile wants court approval to investigate 14 police officers for alleged torture against protesters in Santiago during nearly three weeks of demonstrations and riots against economic inequality. In Chile, torture carries a sentence of between five and ten years in prison. The push for an investigation comes as prosecutors probe more than 800 alleged abuses by police officers, with the U.N. human rights office interviewing alleged victims. Protests continue, with President Sebastián Piñera pledging that those found guilty of violations will be prosecuted.

[The legacy of the dictator Augusto Pinochet looms large in Chile—and the influence of former authoritarian elites is keeping protesters in the streets, Michael Albertus and Mark Deming argue in FP.]

Head of U.N. Palestinian agency quits amid crisis. Pierre Krähenbühl, the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) resigned on Wednesday after two probes into his management. The agency has come under fire in recent years from the leaders of Israel and the United States, which cut $360 million in funding to UNRWA last year. Now the agency is operating in the red, and an ethics report’s findings could mean that is loses more funding, FP’s Colum Lynch reports.

Attack on Canadian company in Burkina Faso. On Wednesday, armed men shot and killed 37 people in a Canadian mining company’s convoy as it traveled to a gold mine in eastern Burkina Faso. The Montreal-based firm, Semafo, said the five company buses had military escorts. Government officials said another 60 people were injured. Burkina Faso was once regarded as an oasis of stability, but violence has escalated recently. As James Blake argued earlier this year in FP, extremist groups are taking advantage of poverty, weak security forces, and unstable neighbors.

Keep an Eye On

The largest dam project in Africa. At a meeting in Washington, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have agreed to work toward ending a dispute over a massive dam project on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia by Jan. 15—after years of conflict. But Egypt fears a looming water crisis when Ethiopia begins filling up a reservoir upstream.

Germany’s anti-hate speech law. Germany’s government has responded to an increase in right-wing extremist violence with measures that curb online hate speech. But Germany’s 2017 Network Enforcement Act is now being copied by authoritarian governments seeking to silence political dissent, from Russia to Vietnam, Jacob Mchangama and Joelle Fiss argue in FP.

Cambodia’s dwindling opposition. Authorities in Malaysia have detained a Cambodian opposition politician on her way to Cambodia, where her party is banned. Mu Sochua is seeking to join the opposition party’s founder Sam Rainsy in Cambodia this week. The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has arrested at least 48 opposition activists so far this year.

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Odds and Ends

Colombia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that traditional Latin American conventions—giving children the last name of their father, followed by that of their mother—is discriminatory. Juan Pablo Pantoja, the lawyer who filed the suit, said the tradition is a “custom with medieval overtones” that violates women’s equal rights.

Across Italy, fans of Elena Ferrante lined up overnight for the release of the cult author’s first new novel in four years, La Vita Bugiarda Degli Adulti (The Lying Life of Adults). Some journalists received encrypted PDF copies of the book early Tuesday, giving them just 48 hours to read and review it.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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