The death toll in Iraq’s broad anti-regime protests, and the subsequent violent crackdown by security forces, has risen to 29 killed, with untold hundreds of others wounded across at least eight cities since Friday.
The Maliki government reacted to the protests, which they blamed on supports of long-dead Saddam Hussein, with mass detentions of leaders and journalists, and one of the detained journalists, Hussan al-Ssairi, who detailed the beatings and threats of execution in custody, slammed the move as “a picture of the new democracy in Iraq.”
Indeed, while Iraq saw comparatively free elections last year, it was not lost on many that Prime Minister Maliki’s party clearly lost the election, and yet he not only retained power but increased his power dramatically.
Protesters are complaining chiefly about the corruption and the government’s inability to provide even basic services to the people nearly eight years into the US occupation. Maliki has ordered the cabinet to “eliminate corruption” in the next 100 days or says he will fire them all. Since he already holds virtually every powerful cabinet position the threat is likely to be seen as another excuse for him to centralize power.