Hundreds of current and former members of the Badr Organization protested April 13 in downtown Baghdad demanding long-overdue financial compensation for their combat service against Saddam Hussein, whose regime was toppled in 2003. However, security forces affiliated with the party's leader, Hadi al-Amiri, used violence to deter protesters, and a number of demonstrators were jailed for days.
The protests failed to get coverage in local Iraqi newspapers and media outlets because of Amiri's political influence, according to participants and organizers.
Amiri doesn't seem to have earned the confidence of ex-combatants who fought by his side against Saddam’s regime in the 1980s. They blame him for their marginalization and lack of compensation.
The Badr Organization was founded in 1982-83 as a military group in Iran. After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Badr turned into a civil organization that ran all elections in Iraq. Amiri has been heading the organization since early in its founding days.
Many Badr members, annoyed by the unilateral internal decision-making process, left the organization earlier this year. They attacked Amiri's leadership and labeled the organization’s policies as "racist, sectarian and serving foreign projects.”
Politically, Amiri seems to be on top of his game. His Al-Binaa Alliance, in participation with the Sairoon Alliance led by Muqtada al-Sadr, formed the new government. Al-Binaa is now seeking to pass parliamentary laws in line with its agenda.
Yet, at the internal Badr level, Amiri has his difficulties. He is surrounded by a group of dissidents who lash out at him on social media, along with a group of ex-combatants who believe he abandoned them for power and money.
“This organization is not the one we knew," said Sattar Douwad al-Tamimi, who fought alongside Amiri from 1984 to 1997. "It is entangled in a lot of corruption issues. Amiri has turned it into a family establishment," granting favors to friends.
Tamimi is leading a broad campaign demanding rights for a number of Badr ex-combatants. Under an order issued in 2004 by US civil administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer, combatants who fought against Saddam’s regime are entitled to recognition and benefits and may be integrated into the regular armed forces.
“Badr has abandoned its members. Many of them were wounded and suffered chemical injuries and did not receive any compensation for fighting the former regime," Tamimi said. "Amiri has not kept his promise over the past 15 years to about 3,000 ex-combatants in Badr who are today in dire need."
One of those ex-combatants, Mahmoud al-Qazwini, who left Badr in 2017, told Al-Monitor, “We cannot leave our brothers with whom we fought on the front lines. I would not accept enjoying rights that my brothers are being denied.”
On April 13, Qazwini participated in the protest outside Badr headquarters. "We wanted to get our rights," he said. "But our protest seems to have worried those close to Amiri. We were severely beaten and detained for several days at two police stations in Baghdad.”
He went on, “I was detained along with six other people. We were interrogated on charges of defamation of Amiri and the Badr Organization. We were also accused of using violence. We are old people, how can we use violence in a peaceful protest?”
Two days after the protest, while Qazwini was still under investigation, Amiri issued a press statement requesting that the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi meet the demands of the protesters "and do them justice," pointing out that their demands are "true and legitimate."
Tamimi and Qazwini believe Amiri is trying to evade his responsibility to secure the rights of Badr ex-combatants.
“Amiri promised before the elections to get us all our rights immediately after the formation of the government in return for our electoral support of Badr," Tamimi said. Instead, “Amiri has put the names of his close associates on the compensation list instead of real fighters.”
Al-Monitor tried to obtain more information about the changes taking place in Badr, but more than one member refused to talk, fearing reprisals.
However, a source close to the Badr Organization told Al-Monitor, “Anger toward Amiri is growing within Badr over a series of positions, including the neglect of ex-combatants and the expansion of internal influence of those close to Amiri. He also said Amiri often appears to be under Iran's control.
The source said on condition of anonymity, “There will be new splits within Badr in light of the unilateral decision-making process by Amiri. The current situation is stirring anger. A shake-up inside Badr is imperative.”
Meanwhile, Tamimi and Qazwini said they will continue to issue statements and stage protests to expose the Badr situation and get all ex-combatants what they are owed.
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