Protests escalate in Baghdad as Basra joins calls to block roads connecting to capital

Clashes resumed between protesters and security forces in Baghdad on Sunday morning, while demonstrations in Basra joined a deadline set by those in Nasiriyah for political forces, stating that unless their demands are met, they would cut off major roads linking their areas with the capital.
author_image Kurdistan 24

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Clashes resumed between protesters and security forces in Baghdad on Sunday morning, while demonstrations in Basra joined a deadline set by those in Nasiriyah for political forces, stating that unless their demands are met, they would cut off major roads linking their areas with the capital.

Local activists told Kurdistan 24 that early on Sunday, riot police attempted to storm Tahrir Square, the central gathering space of demonstrators in Baghdad, but the protesters prevented this and burned several tires. Following this, witnesses reported shootings of live rounds in the al-Tayaran Square, a short distance east of Tahrir, with claims of injuries among protesters.

“The [security] forces are trying to break our sit-in in Tahrir Square,” one activist told Kurdistan 24, adding, “This is linked to the Nasiriyah deadline,” referring to a recent ultimatum by protesters from the southern Iraqi city directed at the state’s leaders to heed their demands or face blocked roads.

“Our deadline also ends tomorrow,” one protester said.

Basra, the oil-rich but impoverished city further south, joined the Nasiriyah deadline, where protestors have also warned of an “escalation.”

Due to the increasing violence that led to the deaths of hundreds of protesters, Adil Abdul Mahdi resigned from his role as prime minister in December. But Iraqi political forces have so far failed to nominate an alternative that demonstrators accept.

Meanwhile, protesters have nominated several Iraqi individuals with notable military or political careers and whom they believe would put the interests of Iraq first. Demonstrations have long condemned foreign, namely Iranian, interference in Iraqi affairs. They have torched the offices of several parties allied with Tehran as well as multiple Iranian consular offices.

Amid the continued violence, security forces have killed over 450 protesters and wounded thousands more since demonstrations broke out in October. Unofficial estimates range as high as 600 dead among demonstrators. Protesters have accused members of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias of shooting them with live rounds and firing military-grade tear gas canisters directly at their heads.

Crowds first took to the streets in early October to express long-held grievances about chronically inadequate public services, a low standard of living, and widespread institutional graft among government officials.

As the scope of the demonstrations grew with each passing week, participants ultimately insisted on widespread reform and the ouster of the entire ruling elite who they see as unashamedly corrupt. Recent violence has taken the shape of assassinations of activists and journalists covering the protests.

Read More: Iraqis mourn assassinated journalists covering protests

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany