Despite threats, Iraq’s medical volunteers keep protests alivexx

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Baghdad, Iraq – A bloodstained letter warning Reham Feras not to return to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square was not enough to keep the 21-year-old medical volunteer from lending her help to Iraq‘s anti-government protesters.

Fearful that her parents would discover the threatening message left anonymously on the doorstep of their family home, Feras hid the piece of paper before slipping out the front door and going to one of the makeshift clinics at the heart of Baghdad’s uprising.

Last month, protests against Iraq’s ruling elite kicked off violent clashes between the demonstrators wearing helmets and goggles, and the heavily-armed security forces.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been taking to streets to demand the removal of a government they perceive as deeply corrupt and an end to foreign interference in the country’s affairs.

More than 330 people have been killed since the uprising began on October 1, a toll that could have been higher were it not for the volunteer medics offering first aid and logistical support.

“The main groups [that are] giving medical aid and treatment to the protesters are volunteer teams,” Ali Al Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), told Al Jazeera.

Since then, the number of medics has dwindled to approximately 150, according to the IHCHR. The drop, said Al Bayati, is a direct result of intimidation.

“There are some threats towards the medical staff working there from unknown sides,” said Al Bayati.

Threats, arrests and abductions have fuelled a collective sense of paranoia among the volunteers.

“Some people are just suspicious,” said Abu Ahmed, a medical volunteer who did not want to reveal his real name. “They stand on the streets and take pictures [of us].” source : aljazeera

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