UN Iraq envoy condemns targeting of Iraqi protestors with ‘hunting guns’
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on Monday, condemned the targeting of “peaceful” Iraqi protestors with hunting guns.
In a press statement, UNAMI said it received credible reports that peaceful protestors were targeted with hunting guns on the road between Al Tahrir Square and Al Khilani Square in Baghdad between Feb. 14 to16injuring at least 50.
UNAMI added that many security personnel were also injured, including by pellets from hunting guns, stones, or Molotov cocktails.
In Iraq’s southern city of Karbala, UNAMI said over 150 protestors were injured in the month of January due to the use of “similar kinetic impact projectiles.”
In the statement, Hennis-Plasschaert strongly condemned the “hunting rifles with birdshot, which caused (yet again) high numbers of casualties in recent protests.”
She also called on the authorities to prevent the use of force and to hold those responsible for the abuse of force.
“The continued pattern of the use of excessive force, with ambiguously identified armed groups and unclear loyalties, is a grave security concern that must be tackled urgently and decisively. Peaceful protesters should be protected at all times,” she was quoted as saying in the UNAMI press release.
The UN Special Envoy has often expressed concern about violence against peaceful protestors since the demonstrations began late last year, but violence has continued.
Since they began in early October 2019, Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed Shia militias have killed over 600 protesters in different parts of the country, according to official statistics.
The vast majority of the dead are young protesters who have been disillusioned by a ruling class they see as unashamedly corrupt and dismissive of the everyday concerns of the public.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24, an analyst on Iraqi affairs, Joel Wing, who is also the author of the Musings on Iraq blog, emphasized that it is important that the international community, including the UN, condemn the violence that has been directed toward the protesters.
“It brings international attention to an issue that is largely being ignored by the world,” he told Kurdistan 24.
“Unfortunately, the pressure hasn’t been sustained nor enough to make any difference in Baghdad. The security forces continue to be reckless in their use of force and various Hashd units [Iran-backed militias] attack the demonstrators at will.”
Recently, unknown assailants attacked a tent at an anti-government protest camp in Baghdad, killing one demonstrator with a silenced pistol, AFP reported on Friday.
The Iraqi protest movement has maintained momentum, although it has slightly diminished. In recent days, women spearheaded one such protest, marching by the hundreds in the capital to call for, among others, equality and end to corruption.
Demonstrators also continue to stay at their tents in sit-in areas of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, as unidentified gunmen continue to wage a violent crackdown. Recently, followers and militias of the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have joined attacking demonstration camps.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany