Haboubi, Tahrir Squares in Prolonging Momentum of Protests
Haboubi Square lies in the center of Nasiriya, capital of the southern Dhi Qar governorate a few meters away from the East Euphrates that splits the city in two. It is in this respect similar to Tahrir Square in central Baghdad, while the latter lies at a similar distance east of the Tigris.
In terms of area, Tahrir is larger than Haboubi. Despite being so, and despite the long distance between the two cities (around 350 kilometers) and despite the differences in nature between the two in terms of area, population (Baghdad hosts approximately 8 million while Nasiriya around 500 thousand), location, and political importance, Nasiriya and its Square were where the popular demonstrations started in October 2019. They are still ongoing and have played a decisive role in prolonging momentum. Its role has not been less important than that of Baghdad. During one of the stages of the struggle with the regime, security forces and armed militias, Nasiriya and Haboubi Square served as a prototype for motivating the movement in the remaining governorates and pushing it to persist. As confrontations broke out between the protesters in Baghdad and the security forces and thousands were wounded and killed, Tahrir Square was never directly infiltrated by the security forces such as what happened in Haboubi Square at the end of last November when 35 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. Last month, Haboubi Square was also attacked by militiamen, which led to casualties and the burning of tents by the attackers in an attempt to disband the demonstration. This led the protesters to build new tents.
Another difference between protesters in Haboubi Square and those in Baghdad was the attempts at burning the offices of parties, armed militias, and the Popular Mobilization Forces. According to some activists and official statistics, more than 120 were killed and 2000 injured in the Nasiriya protests in Haboubi Square since the demonstrations started last October.
Haboubi Square was named after a religious scholar and poet Mohammed Saeed Al-Habboubi who led the revolution against the British occupation of Iraq at the beginning of the last century.
Nasiriya, on the other hand, was established in the 19th century by the Honourable Nasser al-Ashkar Basha al-Saadoun, and the ancient city of Ur (2001 BC) which served as the cradle of Sumerian civilization and the land of Abraham.
Despite this rich history and the human and material capacities (it has oil fields) in Dhi Qar Governorate, the lack of services and deterioration of infrastructure in Nasiriya and other cities justify the insistence of the popular movement to persist and hold on to its aims of getting rid of the reasons for failure that accompanied the political process since 2003.
In the Square and its surroundings are more than 200 tents that host a diverse range of social, occupational, and tribal affiliations. Activists Raad Mohammad al-Ghazi says: “All social groups in the governorate are represented in the Square and have dedicated tents. There are students, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, and representatives of the cities, neighborhoods, and tribes.”
Ghazi adds: “The Square is witnessing a peak in protests on Fridays and Sundays when students can join. During weekdays, large numbers regularly join in the afternoon and raise slogans and repeat chants against the regime and its parties.”