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Kadhimi calls on Iraqis to rebuild country, not destroy it through hate

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called on Iraqis to not seek revenge, but instead work to rebuild their country, in a speech marking the Muslim day of Ashura on Sunday. This year’s events are being held during the coronavirus pandemic and as protesters and civil society activists are worried the country is descending into a new cycle of violence after recent assassinations.

Kadhimi said there is no space for non-state actors and condemned calls to take up arms. “Only the state bears responsibility, the responsibility for retribution. The state does not retaliate, the state promotes justice and protects the right of the victim by punishing the aggressor,” he said in a televised speech. “We have a choice between the state… and no state.”

The premier said they have completed the first phase of an investigation into violence against protesters, compiling a list of everyone killed in months of attacks on protesters who occupied central squares in Iraqi cities, including the capital, demanding government reforms and an end to corruption.

The UN has documented the deaths of 487 protesters since October 2019, while the Iraqi government estimates at least 560 people have died, including members of the security forces.

After three assassinations this summer, two in the span of just a week, activists are afraid the country is witnessing a return to violence of the past and many doubt the government’s ability to hold the perpetrators responsible, especially among powerful Iranian-backed militias who are suspected of playing a role in the killings. Some protesters have discussed arming themselves as protection.

Early elections, which Kadhimi called for next June, are the way to preserve the state, he said, urging Iraqis to register for their biometric identity cards to make sure they have the right to cast a ballot.

“Every drop of a martyr’s blood is a message to all of us that says: beware of revenge, do not hate, embrace each other and rebuild your country, do not destroy it,” Kadhimi said.

Ashura is the tenth day of the month of Muharram and commemorates the killing of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, in 680 AD. It is an important month for Shia Muslims who traditionally flock in the millions to Iraq’s Karbala where Hussein is buried.

Ceremonies and gatherings are subdued this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. AFP reported there are much smaller crowds gathered in Karbala and shrine employees are spraying disinfectant and handing out face masks.

Iraq has not seen a decline in the daily new coronavirus cases and last week the World Health Organization recommended people avoid mass gatherings as the number of infections “is exponentially rising to an alarming and worrying level.”

The country has seen a total of 231,177 cases and 6,959 people have died of the virus. Source