Occupying the Bases: April 9th and Iraq’s ‘Day of Salvation’
March 29, 2011
On March 22nd, 5 Iraqi grassroots organizations announced an initiative that will target “the occupier and its agents”, that’s to say: US military bases and Iraq’s Maliki-led government. Riding the recent wave of sizable Iraqi demonstrations against, among other things: government corruption, lack of social services, Iraq’s prison industrial complex and a broken sectarian political system, the sit-ins planned for on April 9th are the first to call out the US occupation as a central cause, and sustainer of the shattered social reality that millions of Iraqis face every day. A new zeal and organizational drive inspired by the recent Arab uprisings has allowed the grievances laid out during the past month of weekly protests to coalesce. Two communiques co-signed by “The Popular Movement to Save Iraq”, “The Popular Front to Save Kirkuk”, “The Student and Youth Organization of a Free Iraq”, “The Movement in Steadfast Basra to Liberate the South” and “The Iraqi Association of the Tribes of Southern and Central Iraq”outline their demands and the means by which they hope to achieve them.
Those demands include:
- The unconditional departure of the occupying forces
- The revocation of the security agreement which violates the sovereignty and independence of Iraq
- The revocation of the sectarian and ethnic quota system in the political process
- The building of a civil Iraqi state through transparent elections, without the interference of the occupation forces or any foreign, regional force, especially Iran
- The release of the innocent prisoners from occupation and government prisons
- The disclosure of the location of secret prisons that are scattered all over Iraq’s provinces
- Carrying out the demands of our people which were outlined during the “Uprising of Rage” on February 25th
- The formation of an independent judicial committee to investigate the actions of the security forces against peaceful demonstrators [involved in protests over this last month]
The communique continues by announcing “the launch of a long-term sit-in in all Iraqi provinces to mark the eighth anniversary of the brutal American occupation of our precious Iraq on Saturday, 4/9/2011 [. . .] This sit-in will not last hours or days, but will continue night and day until the protesters demands are met [ . . . ] For our sit-ins we will set up tents in front of US military bases, which are located in every Iraqi province. We ask all patriotic individuals and forces that oppose the occupation to participate in this demonstration.” (Full text of the communiques 16 and 17, including organizer’s contact information and the sites of the planned sit-ins, can be accessed in English here and here, and their original Arabic here and here.) The U.S. maintains 14 massive military installations in Iraq, along with dozens of smaller ones. With the Bush administration having pushed for 58 permanent bases during the drafting of the “status of forces” agreement, their fate under Obama and the planned post-2011 “withdrawal” remains unclear.
Among those leading this call is Uday al-Zaidi, the brother of journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who gained world-wide acclaim for his symbolic shoe-throwing at President Bush in December of 2008, and later his eloquent statement about why he did what he did. (As vocal organizers of the past month of protests, both Muntazer and Uday al-Zaidi have been harassed, assaulted and detained by the Iraqi authorities.)
Large media outlet coverage of this mobilization call has been scant, but has included brief stories on Al-Jazeera Arabic, as well as local Iraqi media. The Iraqi blogosphere though, has been abuzz with talk of this plan, as well as more broadly how to marshal the audacity in the air and mobilize for a new Iraq.