People in Baghdad took to Tahrir (Liberation) Square in downtown Baghdad the epicentre of recent anti-regime protests Thursday evening when their football team beat the Iranian team 2-1 in the 2020 World Cup Qualifiers played in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
According to an eyewitness the jubilant crowd at Tahrir Square and other locations set off fireworks and chanted slogans against Iran to the beat of drums and danced around Iraqi national flags in defiance of the neighboring Shiite country they blame for nurturing the ruling elite of Iraq and meddling in Iraq's political and economic affairs. "The crowds are chanting 'Out, out Iran'", the eyewitness said. Large crowds had gathered at the square earlier to watch the match on a giant screen after a day of clashes with the security forces.
Four anti-government protesters were killed in Baghdad on Thursday by tear gas canisters as security forces who tried to push them to their main camp in central Baghdad and seal off the square. The new wave of violence came after two days of relative calm in the Iraqi capital. Iraqi protesters had been anticipating a football victory in Amman as a much-needed impetus for further protests against the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and its backers in Tehran.
Baghdad has been the scene of bloody protests since October 1 when protesters took to the streets of the capital and chanted against the government and foreign meddlers, namely Iran, a country they had fought a bloody war against for eight years, from 1980 to 1988, during Saddam Hussein’s rule. Over 330 Iraqis have died and over 12,000 wounded since protests erupted in Baghdad and spread to other Iraqi cities.
The match, the first one FIFA had agreed to be played on Iraqi soil after a three-decade long ban on hosting international games, was to be played in the southern port city of Basra but due to the security situation in Iraq it was eventually held in Amman on Thursday.