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The New Arab

Protests in Baghdad ahead of 'war criminal' Saudi Crown Prince's visit

Protests are common when Mohammed bin Salman visits a country [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 March, 2018

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Iraqi demonstrators gathered after Friday prayers to protest the upcoming visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Hundreds gathered in Baghdad to protest the upcoming visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Protesters gathered on Friday afternoon following midday prayers, some carrying signs calling him a war criminal, blaming the kingdom for crimes committed by the Islamic State group in Iraq.

Hizballah flags were also seen during the protests.

Bin Salman is planning to visit Iraq in the near future, according to the office of Iraq’s prime minister, but a date has not yet been set.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia have long had a strained relationship, but recently mended ties with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visiting Riyadh last year after diplomatic ties between the two counties were restored in 2016.

The kingdom’s heir apparent is currently on an extensive tour of the United States. Earlier this month he visited the United Kingdom. 

Bin Salman met was met with protests upon his arrival to the UK from anti-war activists, humans rights advocates and members of the exiled Saudi opposition as Downing Street hoped the 32-year-old’s visit "will usher in a new era in bilateral relations.”

A life-size statue of a Yemeni child was unveiled outside the UK’s Parliament on the day of his arrival early March.

The bronze-like statue was delivered by Save the Children which said it is “a reminder of the dangers that Yemeni children face every day and the risks of British-made bombs fuelling the violence.”

As part of the campaign, the statue appeared in several iconic locations across London, including Tower Bridge, Camden Market and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital, to reflect the types of places where children are regularly bombed in Yemen, such as playgrounds, hospitals, schools and markets, the charity said.

The protests took place despite the fact that Saudi authorities spent hundreds and thousands of pounds on advertisements in an attempt to hype the British public ahead of his visit.

Promotional posters of Mohammed bin Salman popped up across London in prime locations this week running up to bin Salman’s visit. Major newspapers have published half-page advertisements for the charm offensive.

UK-based Campaign said that Saudi authorities have spent close to £1 million ($1.4 million) on the ads.

Industry sources told the business magazine on Monday that the advertisements, with slogans such as "United Kingdoms" and "He is bringing change to Saudi Arabia", could appear on as many as 50 digital outdoor billboards.

Local dailies The Guardian and The Evening Standard have also carried the promotions, which hail Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030" plan to diversify its oil-reliant economy and encourage social media users to post using the hashtag #ANewSaudiArabia.

Even a Snapchat geo-filter was set up to propagate bin Salman as someone “bringing change to Saudi Arabia.”

Agencies contributed to this report

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