ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior member of an Iranian-backed militia publicly threatened participants in mass demonstrations raging in southern and central Iraq if attacks on their offices continued.
“All those who stood behind the dirty and evil [demonstrators] hands, and tried to direct them to hit the Islamic Resistance of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, shame on you and on those who support you,” said Khaled al-Saadi, a member of the Executive Office of the group in a speech presented to its supporters in Najaf.
Popular discontent over chronic power shortages in a country where summer temperatures often reach 50 degrees Celsius has caused thousands to take to the street in recent days.
Protesters have attacked and burned the offices of several political parties and those of Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) militias such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Organization, and Kata'ib Hezbollah.
The demonstrations, strongest in the provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Karbala, Babil, and Baghdad, are currently in their second week and have sometimes been violent. Casualties are being reported in the hundreds and as caused primarily by Iraqi security forces.
Though protests occur every summer in Iraq's southern provinces, Saadi said that he considered the recent demonstrations to be a plot carried out by regional and international actors.
Blaming them on the "Zionist-American" and the "Turkish-Gulf projects," he vowed that “any hand that approaches our offices and the headquarters of Asaib Ahl al-Haq will be cut off... The hands that attack our offices will be cut off immediately."
“We do not need permission from anyone and we will not wait for the green light from anyone," he continued. “Any tongue speaking badly of the Islamic Resistance of Asaib Ahl al-Haq will be silenced."
On Tuesday, the United Nations' (UN) envoy to Iraq urged the government to address people’s legitimate concerns and called on political actors to ensure the next government prioritizes good governance, anti-corruption measures, and delivery of critical public services.
After a special meeting held on Monday night to deal with the current situation, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and leading political parties said they recognized Iraqis' right to public protest, but also blamed "seditious elements" for their role in the demonstrations.
Editing by John J. Catherine