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Ali Rahim

An elderly peaceful protester stands in the path of a water cannon amid a wave of protests that broke out in Basra and spread across Iraq in July 2018. News outlets including the citizen journalism blog Mosul Eye have identified this protester as a community leader from Dhi Qar in southern Iraq.

The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) describes the protesters’ movement as a demand for essential services like water and electricity, access to jobs in the energy sector, and denunciation of corruption in the governing Dawa party. The demonstrations originated around large oil fields and exploration sites. As they gained traction, the Iraqi government began to expand their security presence, and forcefully suppressed the protests with live ammunition, tear gas, and water cannons, despite Iraq’s constitutional protection of the right to peaceful demonstration. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi himself conceded in a press conference that the protestors were peaceful, and acknowledged that in some cases government security forces had initiated the violence.

In an effort to curb the demonstrations and prevent the protesters from gaining international support, the government blocked the internet and banned certain social media sites; but resourceful young protestors found alternative means of communications such as virtual private networks. The hashtag #Save_the_Iraqi_people was used to convey news of the protests and bolster support for the demonstrators in the English-speaking world.