Dozens of Iraqi Protesters Killed During Violent Police Crackdown
In a new wave of nationwide protests in Iraq on Friday, more than 20 Iraqi protesters were reportedly killed and a few thousand others injured.
Iraqi riot police clashed with demonstrators in the capital of Baghdad and across other southern provinces after angry crowds of Iraqi protesters attempted to enter the capital’s Green Zone, where there are international embassies and government buildings.
Friday’s violence is a continuation of protests in recent weeks by thousands of Iraqis, mainly youth, who took to the streets to protest corruption, poor public services and a high rate of unemployment. Over 140 protesters were killed during protests in early October.
Hadi Promises Reform, Protests Continue
Friday’s protests, according to Al Jazeera, came hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Hadi, who took office last year, addressed Iraqis and pledged a cabinet reshuffle and economic reforms. Hadi was also quoted as stressing the people’s right to protest and instructed security forces to protect the Iraqi protesters.
As the Iraqi protesters moved toward the Green Zone where government offices and international embassies are located including the U.S.’, Iraqi riot police began dispersing the crowds by firing tear gas and live bullets, causing deaths and injuries. Iraqi security sources reported that a few thousand protesters removed metal barriers around the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad prompting police personnel to respond with live rounds and volleys of tear gas.
Iraqi protester, Abu Ali al-Majidi, 55, who accompanied his four sons to the Green Zone, told ABC News, “They are all corrupt thieves who have eaten away the country like cancer.” Al Majidi was referring to the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Hadi.
Medical sources in Baghdad confirmed that among those killed were eight in Baghdad, while the remaining were in Iraqi provinces, including Basra, Nasiriyah, Misan and Muthanna, in the south of the country. The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that eight protesters were killed in Baghdad, while 13 others were killed in the southern Iraqi districts of Maysan, Dhi Qar and Muthanna.
Director of the Observatory, Mustafa Saadoon, was quoted by Aljazeera as putting the number of injured protesters to 1,700, across Iraq, on Friday.
Shiite Leaders Speak Out in Support of Iraqi Protesters
In the meantime, senior Shiite Iraqi leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on Iraqis during his Friday sermon to peacefully protest. He accused the government of failing to uncover who was behind the early October week of violence that claimed the lives of 149 protesters and wounded about 3000 others.
Hadi’s government formed a committee to probe into the early October violence which, according to the BBC, concluded that “officers and commanders lost control over their forces during the protests and that this caused chaos.”
Another Shiite influential leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc has the most seats in parliament, showed a great deal of support to protesters. Al-Sadr announced the suspension of his bloc’s participation in the current Iraqi government until the government promptly makes needed reforms that align with the people’s demands.