Nationwide protests broke out across Iraq on Tuesday, as thousands of mostly young men demonstrated against corruption and calling for an end to endemic corruption in the oil-rich country.
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 communicating with each other or posting footage of the chaotic demonstrations.
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 Baghdad and other cities to try to stop the protests gathering steam.
Here are the latest updates from Iraq:
Friday, October 4
Al-Sadr asks MPs to suspend parliament membership
Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition had won the largest number of seats in last year’s elections, urged lawmakers 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 Imran 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
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 probe 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.
Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah backs protests
Iraq’s top Shia cleric, 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”.
Red Cross calls for restraint as protests continue
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was concerned by “increasingly violent clashes” between protesters and security forces.
“The use of force by security forces must be proportionate to the situation and is an exceptional measure,” said the ICRC’s head of delegation in Iraq, Katharina Ritz.
“In particular, firearms and live ammunition must only be used as a last resort, and to protect against an imminent threat to life.”
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 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 fired 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 Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad.