The city of Mosul in northern Iraq has become the epicenter of the continuing protests this week.
An estimated three hundred Iraqis initially set up tents in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to demand an end to the U.S. occupation, the release of political prisoners, rewriting of the constitution, and the departure of what they call the ‘Green Zone’ government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki.
Among the dozens of grassroots organizations calling for sit-ins in front of U.S. military bases, two of the most prominent taking part in Mosul are the ‘Popular Movement to Save Iraq’ and ‘The Free Iraqis of Mosul.’ Contingents of Iraqis from as far south as Nasiriyah and al-Basra are at the Mosul sit-in being held in what has become known as ‘Prisoner’s Square.’ The calls for nation-wide demonstrations in Iraq comes in the wake of high-ranking U.S. politicians including Senator Kerry, Vice President Biden, and most recently Secretary Gates all implying that U.S. forces may stay past the December 2011 deadline.
Last week, Iraqi Facebook pages administered directly by protest organizers reported that government security forces encircled their camp, surveiled and taunted them, and called on them to end their sit-in. Protesters also reported that a low-flying American military helicopter swept towards the demonstrators, in what was interpreted as an attempt to intimidate them. Their response, captured in the video below, was to throw dozens of shoes towards the helicopter, and has prompted them to ask for an investigation into why this military vehicle was sent towards them.
Demonstrations have been joined by dozens of women, who are calling for the end of the U.S. occupation and the release of their sons and brothers who are held in both Iraqi and US prisons throughout Iraq. This week tribal chieftains from nearby Anbar province joined the Mosul protests as well.
As of today, reports now estimate the growing crowds in Mosul to number in the thousands, comprised of many young people who were last seen marching toward the 4th bridge, where they were stopped by government troops preventing them from going to the square to join with other protesters.
Demonstrators are insistent on continuing their sit-in until all their demands are met, foremost of which are:
- Complete departure of the U.S. occupying forces.
- No extension of the security agreement between the Maliki government and the U.S.
- The release of innocent prisoners.