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Iraq: Days of escalating protests, bloody clashes

  • Published at 01:37 pm October 4th, 2019
IRAQ-PROTESTS/
Demonstrators gather at a protest during a curfew, three days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 4, 2019 Reuters

The UN calls on Iraq to rapidly and transparently investigate force used by riot police

Dozens of protesters wearing masks and carrying Iraqi flags gather in Baghdad from early in the morning, arriving in trucks and buses yesterday.

Large numbers of security forces are deployed to enforce the curfew, again blocking access to Tahrir Square.

In a much-anticipated midday sermon, Iraq's revered Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani endorses the protests and calls on the government to heed them "before it's too late."

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", Sistani says, listing some of the protesters' main grievances as the death toll since Tuesday reaches 36, including four police.

The UN calls on Iraq to rapidly and transparently investigate force used by riot police.

Anti-government protests in Iraq quickly escalated into deadly clashes, in the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi since he came to power in 2018.

Here is a recap of four days of unrest, in which dozens of people have been killed and hundreds wounded.

Spontaneous gatherings

On October 1, more than 1,000 people take to the streets in Baghdad and several cities in southern Iraq to protest corruption, unemployment and poor public services.

It is the first large protest faced by Mahdi's fragile government nearly a year into its term.

Unrest spreads

On October 2, protests multiply across southern Iraq, with thousands participating. In Baghdad, riot police attempt to disperse crowds in a half-dozen neighbourhoods by firing tear gas and live rounds.

Protesters try to reach Tahrir Square, but it is sealed off. They set fire to tyres and block main roads, while security forces seal off the Green Zone.

Battles in Baghdad

On October 3, major clashes occur as thousands of protesters defy the curfew to march in Baghdad and across the south.

In the capital, riot police and soldiers fire live rounds into the air and at the ground from automatic weapons mounted on military vehicles.

Crowds block streets and burn tyres in front of government offices in multiple cities, including Missan, Najaf, Basra, Wasit and Babylon.

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