Iraq: Anti-Government Protesters Set Fire to Iran Consulate

TOPSHOT - Iraqi protesters burn tyres in front of the Karbala governorate headquarters in the central city of Karbala, early on May 9, 2021, following the reported assassination of a local anti-government activist. - Renowned anti-government activist Ihab al-Wazni (Ehab al-Ouazni) was killed in Iraq early today, security sources and …
MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP via Getty Images

Anti-government protesters in the central Iraqi city of Karbala set fire to the outer gates of the city’s Iranian consulate on Sunday after unidentified gunmen killed an Iraqi activist in Karbala earlier the same day.

“Some 300 protesters headed to the Iranian consulate building [on May 9] with the intention of storming it,” leaders of Iraq’s two-year-long anti-government protest movement and local police in Karbala told the Middle East Eye (MEE).

“Young people have gathered in front of the [Karbala] governorate building in the city centre and blocked main roads with burning tyres, while a group of them went to the Iranian consulate to burn it,” Ahmed al-Banaa, a friend of the activist assassinated on May 9, Ihab al-Wazni, told MEE on Sunday.

The protesters were unsuccessful in storming the Iranian consulate but managed to set fire to its perimeter, according to Karbala’s Iranian consul, Mojtaba Karimi.

“The arson was limited to the [consulate’s] guardrooms on the periphery only. There were no casualties,” Karimi told reporters Sunday.

“[M]embers of Iraq’s protest movement, who since October 2019 have been demonstrating against bad governance, corruption and foreign interference, accused Iranian-backed armed groups of … [al-Wazni’s] assassination” on May 9, according to MEE.

“Paramilitaries backed by Tehran have been linked to the murder of several activists, protesters and journalists since the protest movement began,” the news site noted.

“They [Iraq’s anti-government protesters] believe that the arms of Iran are the ones who killed Ihab [al-Wazni],” Al-Banaa told MEE on Sunday.

Unidentified gunmen on a motorbike shot Al-Wazni in front of his home in central Karbala in the early hours of May 9. Al-Wazni, a leading activist of Iraq’s anti-government protest movement, survived an earlier assassination attempt in December 2019, according to the Saudi-owned news site Al Arabiya.

“We strongly condemn the attack on our diplomatic facilities in Iraq and call on the Iraqi government to fulfill its duties in protecting Iran’s diplomatic facilities,” Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on May 10.

The Iranian foreign ministry has filed a formal letter of protest with the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran over the incident, Khatibzadeh said. He added Iran expects the Iraqi government “to fulfill its responsibilities in this regard.”

A group of Iraqi anti-government demonstrators previously attacked the Iranian Consulate in Karbala in November 2019, one month after the protest movement began. The Iraqi anti-government protesters at the time “also accused Iran of interfering in the country’s internal affairs, an accusation Tehran has repeatedly denied,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency noted Monday.

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