Shoug Basim Staff Reporter, The Pawprint
Thousands of anti-government protesters in Baghdad celebrated with fireworks and national music, a 2-1 win over Iran in a much-anticipated World Cup qualifying match, hoping it would return momentum to their movement that has been hit by a lethal security crackdown.
Crowds watched the game Thursday on a large screen in Baghdad’s main Tahrir Square, the center of demonstrations that have called for the overturning of Iraq’s corrupt system and an end to Iranian political influence.
Many carried Iraqi flags and chanted “Iran, out!” Iraq had been due to play two home games in the southern city of Basra against Iran and Bahrain in November, but the oil-rich city has been caught up in the anti-government protests that have held Baghdad and mainly Shiite southern provinces captive, since Oct. 1.
The international soccer federation had recently lifted a three-decade ban on Iraq to host international matches, requesting an alternative venue for security reasons amid the unrest. The Iraqi football association chose Amman.
Fireworks decorated the sky when Iraq’s national team scored its first goal 11 minutes into the intense football match. Protestors chanted, danced, and beat dreams after another goal, scored in the last minute of the additional time.
For many, the victory against Iran was a powerful symbol of their national movement, which has left over 320 dead and thousands wounded. “Our victory today is a victory against the killers among those groups that affiliated with Iran,” said Ali al-Fareej, 20, a university student whole joined the nation-spread celebrations over Iraq’s soccer win.
So far, protestors have rejected government proposals for economic and constitutional reforms and are calling on the entire political leadership to resign, including the Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. They are rigidly demanding for an end to all Iranian influence in Iraqi state affairs. Iraqi authorities began raiding public demonstrations last week.
This encompassed pushing protesters back from three bridges spanning the Tigris River toward the fortified Green Zone. After Thursday’s victory, many any have felt intimidated by cases of disappearances and arbitrary arrests and had stopped showing up to demonstrations, fearful of retaliation.