17 Dead, Mostly Civilians, as Iraq Cracks Down on Protests

Maliki Declared Peaceful Protest al-Qaeda Headquarters

In late April, Iraqi forces cracked down on civilian protests near Mosul, sparking nine months of sectarian blood-letting that left thousands dead, and the country’s security in growing doubt.

Today, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki underscored how little he’s learned, responding to a sit-in protest in Ramadi with heavy-handed police action that killed at least 17 people, 12 of them unarmed civilians.

The Ramadi protest began over the weekend, after the Maliki government arrested a local Sunni MP on “terrorism” charges, in spite of the law explicitly not allowing the arrest of sitting MPs.

Government spokesmen claimed earlier today that a deal had been reached to release the MP in return for an end to the protests. The MP was never released, however, and police moved in en masse, attacking protesters.

Maliki defended the action, saying that the peaceful demonstration was a “headquarters” for al-Qaeda, and insisted that there had been no talks at all about a deal.

Oddly enough, even after the bloody crackdown was already a matter of public knowledge and Maliki had repudiated the notion of a deal, some government officials were continuing to insist the deal was in place, and insisted that the camp had been peacefully dismantled.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.