Iraq PM says committed to reform, will reveal deadly protest inquiry results 'soon'
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – One week before national protests are expected to resume, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said that his government was committed to improving living conditions and affirmed that an investigation into a recent bout of deadly demonstrations would be announced “soon.”
During a week of demonstrations that began in Baghdad in early October and spread to other major cities, at least 100 people were killed on both sides and over 6,000 wounded amid a violent crackdown by security forces. The use of force was widely condemned by international observers and human rights organizations.
Read More: Amnesty: Iraqi forces' brutality against protesters 'outrageous’
Shortly after crowds of thousands began taking to the streets, Abdul Mahdi attempted to calm demonstrators with promises of reform and a cabinet shuffle. They failed to quell the anger of the public, who continue to call for a complete governmental overhaul amid shortages of public services, high rates of unemployment, and chronic institutional corruption.
Read More: Iraqi PM promises reform as protest death tolls surge
If the past is any guide, organizers are unlikely to be placated for long with promises of the like they've heard for years unless they see concrete results.
Activists have told Kurdistan 24 that another major demonstration is planned for Baghdad and other cities on Oct. 25. This follows the Shia religious observance called Arbaeen, during which millions of worshippers will be marching to holy sites in Iraq.
“The Arbaeen pilgrimage in its essence is an expression of rejecting all forms of devastation and corruption,” Abdul Mahdi said in a statement on Saturday. He also repeated previous pledges to “eliminate inequality of living and achieve social justice and reform.”
“We reaffirm that the call for reform is a legitimate right for all,” he added.
Despite the prime minister’s remarks, violence permeated the protests, with unidentified gunmen shooting civilians with sniper rifles from a distance. Reuters reported on Thursday that Iran-aligned Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were responsible for the sniping after their leaders decided on their own to help put down the mass protests.
“We have confirmed evidence that the snipers were elements of militias reporting directly to their commander instead of the chief commander of the armed forces,” said an Iraqi security source. “They belong to a group that is very close to the Iranians.”
On Oct. 11, the most senior and influential Shia cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the use of force against demonstrators and gave the authorities two weeks to publicly identify those responsible.
In a statement on Friday, the Prime Minister said that the results of an investigation into the deadly incidents that accompanied the demonstrations “will be announced soon.”
“We promise our people that the perpetrators [of violence] in the previous demonstrations will be held accountable no matter where they are in the state; no one is above the law,” Abdel Mahdi vowed.
Editing by John J. Catherine