Iraq Protests update: After 105 Killed, PM Pledges Reform

Iraq has been rocked by days of protests, as thousands of mostly young men have been demonstrating in different parts of the country against corruption, unemployment and poor public services.

0
103

Security forces have responded using water cannon, tear gas, live rounds and rubber bullets. Dozens of protesters have been killed and hundreds more wounded. 

Tensions have been exacerbated by a near-total internet blackout as the authorities seek to prevent protesters from communicating with each other or posting footage of the chaotic demonstrations online.

The mostly leaderless demonstrations are the biggest challenge yet to the one-year government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who has imposed curfews in the capital, Baghdad, and other cities to try to stop the protests gathering steam.

Here are the latest updates:

Sunday, October 6

Iraq PM pledges reforms to calm protesters

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s cabinet issued a series of reforms after an “extraordinary” session overnight in response to the sweeping anti-government rallies.

The cabinet issued a decree including more than a dozen planned reforms, including land distributions, military enlistment and increased welfare stipends for needy families, AFP news agency reported.

In response to staggering youth unemployment, which has reached around 25 percent according to the World Bank, the government said it would create large market complexes and boost benefits for those without work.

105 dead in five days of protests: Rights group

Iraq Protests
Iraq Protests

The number of people of killed during the five days of violent protests in Iraq is now 105, according to the country’s Observatory for Human Rights.

The government has officially designated those killed as “martyrs,” granting their families a special set of benefits.

Fresh clashes outside Baghdad 

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, says fresh clashes took place in the capital’s outskirts with security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition at protesters as they attempted to push into the city’s central Tahrir square. 

“What we’ve seen and heard here in Baghdad in the early hours of the morning is clashes between security forces and protesters in the outskirts,” Khan said. 

“Beyond the protest movement, there is also a political crisis brewing. The year-old government of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi is facing its biggest challenge yet.” 

“There was supposed to be an emergency parliamentary session on Saturday [but] that did not happen. The speaker of parliament then announced his support for the protesters in a news conference. Many people are calling for new elections to take place”. 

Saturday, October 5

Gunmen attack TV stations in Baghdad

Unknown gunmen attacked the offices of several television stations in Baghdad, The Associated Press news agency reported.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said masked gunmen who arrived in black cars wearing black clothes stormed the offices of the television station, attacked some employees and smashed equipment before fleeing the scene.

Majed Hamid, the channel’s correspondent in Baghdad, said several colleagues were injured. He added that the station had been receiving threats for several days.

Gunmen also attacked the offices of Iraq’s Dajla and NRT news channels in Baghdad, according to employees at the stations. Both of those stations are privately owned.

UN says violence ‘must stop’

Iraq Protests
Iraq Protests

The top United Nations official in Iraq denounced the violence during protests that has killed nearly 100 people across the country and wounded thousands of others, saying it “must stop”.

“Five days of reported deaths and injuries; this must stop,” Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the special representative of the UN secretary general in Iraq, said in a post on Twitter.

“Those responsible for violence should be held to account,” she added.

According to Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights, 99 people have been killed and nearly 4,000 wounded since the protests erupted on Tuesday.

Protesters killed in Baghdad

Iraqi officials said at least five more protesters were shot and killed in anti-government demonstrations that raged in four neighbourhoods in Baghdad, bringing the day’s death toll to 14, The Associated Press news agency reported.

The medical and police officials told AP two protesters were killed in the western Baghdad neighbourhood of Shula when security opened fire on rallies after dark. The officials said two more protesters were killed in the area near Tahrir Square, where they have been under fire from security forces, bringing the toll there to nine.

In the southern suburb of Zaafaraniyeh, one more protester died of his wounds, according to a medical official there cited by AP, bringing the area’s death toll to two. One protester was also killed in the southern city of Diwaniyah where protesters marched on local government’s offices, AP reported.

Iraqi speaker meets protesters

The Speaker of Iraq’s parliament Mohamad al-Halbousi met representatives of protesters in an apparent bid to defuse the political crisis.

Al-Habousi told those gathered that the government would look to roll out a series of measures to curb corruption and kickstart Iraq’s economy, including lending money to small businesses and creating new jobs.

Al Jazeera’s Khan said the meeting felt like a “campaign rally”.

“It felt like he [al-Halbousi] was maneuvering himself into an election that may well come,” Khan added.

Protesters take to streets in southern cities: Report

Iraq Protests
Iraq Protests

Iraqi officials and a member of the country’s semi-official human rights commission said thousands of protesters had taken to the streets in two southern cities and set fire to political party offices, The Associated Press news agency reported.

An Iraqi security official and the rights commission official told AP protesters in Nasiriyah had set ablaze the offices of two political parties in the restive southern city. The two officials said the security forces responded with fire, but there was no immediate word on casualties. The officials described the protest as “very large.”

In another southern city, Diwaniyah, protesters marched toward local government offices, AP reported. There were no reports of violence there.

Emergency parliament session boycotted

Al Jazeera’s Khan said an emergency session of parliament scheduled for Saturday afternoon did not take place after a number of key politicians failed to show up for the meeting.

“Three major blocs decided they were going to boycott that session because they said the government didn’t have an agenda it could implement so therefore it was not worth going to the meeting,” Khan said.

“There is a political crisis now brewing.”

Voices from Baghdad

As protests continued to pulsate throughout Baghdad, some of those demonstrating shared their demands and concerns.

Five killed in fresh protest clashes: Report

Five people were killed in new clashes between protesters and police in Baghdad, police and medical sources told the Reuters news agency.

The fresh unrest followed days of violence around anti-government protests that have hit the Iraqi capital and other cities dotted throughout the country’s south this week.

What do the Iraqi protesters want?

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan took to the streets of Baghdad to gauge the depths of Iraq’s ongoing political crisis.

One protester killed in Baghdad, officials say

Iraqi officials said one protester was killed and 17 others were wounded as security forces fired on anti-government protesters to disperse renewed demonstrations in Baghdad, the first after a two-day curfew was lifted early on Saturday morning.

Al Jazeera’s Khan said the situation in the city remained “tense”.

Iraq Protests
The protests, in which hundreds of people have also been injured, began over unemployment and poor services but have escalated into calls for a change of government and pose one of the country’s biggest security challenges in years.

“We are getting reports that protesters are gathering in small numbers in the streets … but whether they’ll be able to get that critical mass and march on Tahrir Square remains to be seen,” he added.

Doubts over emergency parliament session

Al Jazeera’s Khan said an emergency session of parliament scheduled for Saturday afternoon was now “unlikely” to take place.

“That emergency session was supposed to begin at 1pm (10:00 GMT) local time, it’s now just after 4pm local time (13:00 GMT) and they haven’t been able to get enough MPs to begin that session,” Khan said.

“It hasn’t been cancelled as of yet, however it’s unlikely the session will take place according to politicians that we have spoken to,” he added. 

“A lot of political parties have decided to boycott the session because they say this government is ineffectual and doesn’t have an agenda and therefore it’s a waste of time to be at this political session.”

Iraq protest death toll nears 100: rights panel

The death toll from mass protests in Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq rose to 93, the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said.

Nearly 4,000 others have been wounded, according to the commission, which is affiliated with Iraq’s parliament. It was not immediately clear whether the latest deaths were from Friday’s huge protests or fresh demonstrations on Saturday.

Security forces block access to Tahrir Square 

Despite the lifting of the government-imposed curfew, riot police blocked Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests, local news agencies said.

Shoppers trickled back onto the streets to buy vegetables and other perishable goods the price of which had doubled since the protests began.

Municipal street cleaners set about clearing the detritus of the four days of running clashes between protesters and security forces, which has seen breeze blocks and burning tyres strewn across major thoroughfares.

An onlooker who ventured out, Abu Salah, 70, was not convinced the protests were over.

“If living conditions don’t improve, the protesters will be back,” he told AFP.

Death toll rises to 73

The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights reported that the death toll had increased to 73, including six members of the security forces, with more than 3,000 others injured.

A total of 540 demonstrators have been arrested, of whom nearly 200 remain in custody, the commission added.

Al Jazeera’s Khan, reporting after the curfew was lifted from Baghdad on Saturday, said that while there were still protesters out in the streets, they were not gathering in the numbers witnessed during previous days.

Iraq Protests
The largest number of casualties occurred in the southern city of Nasiriya, where 18 people were killed, followed by the capital Baghdad where the death toll stood at 16, they said.

“There was an incredible amount of criticism from all aspects of Iraqi society when the curfew was brought into place,” he said.

“It was never a long-term, short-term or even medium-term solution to Iraq’s crisis. The government had little choice but to actually lift it so they can get Baghdad moving.”

Friday, October 4

PM lifts curfew in the capital: Report

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered the lifting of a government-enforced curfew in Baghdad by 5am local time (02:00 GMT) on Saturday, state media reported.

It was not immediately clear if curfews put in place in other cities throughout Iraq over the ongoing unrest would also be lifted.

Al-Sadr calls for snap election

Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition had won the largest number of seats in last year’s elections, called for the government to resign and for a snap election to be held, a statement from his office said.

The fresh poll should be monitored by international experts, the statement added.

Al-Sadr had earlier urged legislators to suspend their parliamentary membership and boycott sessions until the government responds to the protesters’ demands.

Red Cross urges ‘restraint’

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on security forces and protesters to exercise restraint.

“The use of firearms by security forces must be a measure of last resort and only to protect against an imminent threat to life,” Katharina Ritz, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Iraq, said in a Twitter post.

“We call on all for restraint,” she added.

Death toll rises to 65: Report

The death toll since protests began on Tuesday had reached 65, the Reuters news agency reported, citing security and medical sources. The vast majority of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours as violence accelerated amid continued demonstrations.

The Associated Press news agency meanwhile put the death toll at 53 after medical and security officials said 11 protesters were killed during protests in Baghdad.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify either set of figures.

Iraqi speaker backs protesters’ calls for political reform

Al Jazeera’s Khan said the Speaker of Iraq’s parliament Mohamad al-Halbousi had expressed support for the protesters’ demands.

“He [al-Halbousi] has taken the side of the protesters, he’s saying the government has failed and needs to put in reforms right now,” Khan said.

“There seems to be a lot of anger towards the government, but it’s also coming not just from the protesters but from the parliament itself,” Khan added. “But this government is only a year old and these problems are a lot older than that.”

Khan also said authorities’ appeals for calm appeared to have failed, with protesters out on the streets of the capital in defiance of a government-enforced curfew.

Security forces say ‘unidentified snipers’ kill four in Baghdad

Iraqi security forces said “unidentified snipers” killed four people in Baghdad on the fourth successive day of anti-government protests.

A statement said two of those killed were members of the security forces and the other two were civilians.

The killings bring the death toll since protests began on Tuesday to 44, including six security forces, according to police and medical sources.

Demonstrators ‘storm’ Diwaniyah provincial council

Protesters stormed the provincial council in Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, according to a police officer.

“Hundreds of demonstrators stormed provincial council’s building after violent clashes with security forces,” Police Lieutenant Jassim al-Tamimi told Anadolu Agency.

Dozens of protesters were reportedly wounded by gunfire and police forces were also injured after demonstrators threw stones at them.

The police officer said: “There are unconfirmed reports of deaths among the demonstrators as a result of the clashes.”

Police repressing Irak protesters
Mustafa Saadoon, director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, accused anti-riot police in Baghdad of using “excessive force and tear gas against the protesters that resulted in the death of three protesters and the wounding of more than 250”.

Al-Sadr asks MPs to suspend parliament membership

Shia leader al-Sadr urged legislators to suspend their parliamentary membership and boycott sessions until the government responds to the protesters’ demands.

“Hurry to suspend your membership without delay,” he said in a statement issued before a parliamentary session on Saturday.

Al Jazeera’s Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said “there is already controversy over what’s going to be discussion” at the emergency session and “what impact it might have on the protesters”.

Curfew has ‘huge impact’, night protests expected

Al Jazeera’s Khan said the curfew was having a “huge impact” on residents’ lives.

Khan cited a statement by the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, which said the prices of food and fuel were rising due to the measures.

“It’s asking the Iraqi government to try and lift some of the restrictions or at least to try and send food trucks to areas where there is a curfew,” Khan said.

“The curfew is being adhered to by most sections of society apart from protesters who still gather in parts of Baghdad,” he added.

“What we’ve seen so far is them gathering in different parts of the city, but they’re all looking towards the focal point, which is Tahrir Square in central Baghdad and that’s where they’ll march. We’re expecting that after dark, we will see more of the scenes we’ve been seeing over the last couple of days.”

Kurdish leader addresses unrest

Nechirvan Barzani, president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, addressed the unrest, saying the situation in Baghdad was being monitored.

In a statement, Barzani said peaceful demonstrations are a constitutional right but should not lead to chaos and disorder.

Iraq dollar bonds fall 1.2 cents amid unrest

Iraq’s dollar-denominated sovereign debt fell 1.2 cents to a four-month low amid the unrest in the country.

The 2028 issue dropped to as little as 95.14 cents – the lowest level in four months, according to data from Refinitiv. The bonds have fallen more than two cents since the start of the week.

Kuwait and Bahrain issue travel warning

Kuwait and Bahrain called on their citizens to avoid trips to Iraq due to the protests and advised those who are there to leave the country immediately.

Earlier, Qatar issued a similar advisory.

UN urges Iraq to investigate protest deaths ‘transparently’

The United Nations called on Iraq to rapidly and transparently investigate force used by anti-riot police in clashes with protesters that have left dozens dead.

“We call on the Iraqi government to allow people to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Marta Hurtado, spokeswoman for the UN rights office, told journalists in Geneva.

“We are worried by reports that security forces have used live ammunition and rubber bullets in some areas, and have also fired tear gas canisters directly at protesters,” Hurtado said, insisting that in dealing with demonstrations, “the use of force should be exceptional”.

“Any use of force must comply with applicable international human rights norms and standards,” she said, stressing that firearms should never be used “except as a last resort to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.”

“All incidents in which the actions of security forces have resulted in death and injury should be promptly, independently and transparently investigated,” she said.

Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah backs protests

Iraq’s top Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged security forces and protesters not to use violence and criticised Iraqi leaders for failing to eradicate corruption

He has called on the Iraqi government to heed the protesters’ demands “before it is too late”.

In a letter read out by his representative Ahmed al-Safi during a sermon in the holy city of Kerbala, Sistani described the deaths from the protests as “sorrowful”, and maintained that the government has not “achieved anything on the ground”.

“Lawmakers hold the biggest responsibility for what is happening,” Sistani said.

He also said the government “must do what it can to improve public services, find work for the unemployed, end clientelism, deal with the corruption issue and send those implicated in it to prison”.

Death toll rises to 44: police, security sources 

The death toll from three days of anti-government protests in Iraq climbed to 44, police and medical sources told Reuters.

The largest number of casualties occurred in the southern city of Nasiriyah, where 18 people were killed, followed by the capital Baghdad where the death toll stood at 16, they said.

The protests, in which hundreds of people have also been injured, began over unemployment and poor services but have escalated into calls for a change of government and pose one of the country’s biggest security challenges in years.

Qatar urges citizens not to travel to Iraq 

Qatar’s foreign ministry advised its citizens not to travel to Iraq and urged those already there to leave immediately in view of ongoing unrest.

Iraqi security forces open fire on protesters in Baghdad

Iraqi security forces opened fire on dozens of protesters gathering in Baghdad for a fourth day of demonstrations against corruption, unemployment and poor public services.

“These protesters have now been dispersed to neighbouring streets and there are running battles taking place,” said Al Jazeera’s Khan.

Abdul Mahdi said there was “no magic solution” to Iraq’s problems but pledged to work on laws granting poor families a basic income, provide alternative housing, and fight corruption.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here