ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday announced that at least 270 people had died, and thousands of others were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces in Iraq’s central and southern provinces during nationwide protests.
Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the OHCHR, said in a statement on Friday that the UN human rights office is “extremely concerned” about ongoing reports of “intentional violence by the Iraqi armed personnel.”
“Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 7, the OHCHR documented 269 deaths and 8,000 injuries as a result of the nationwide protests in Iraq, including security forces,” Colville added.
The spokesperson criticized the tactics of security forces and militias, such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), use to disperse protesters, especially the use of tear gas canisters and live ammunition. Many demonstrators have been killed after being struck directly by tear gas canisters.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report indicated that at least 16 individuals have died as a result of tear gas canisters since Oct. 25.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, urged Iraqi authorities in Baghdad to “immediately stop using…tear gas grenades to kill rather than disperse protesters.” The statement came after an investigation found that at least five protesters were killed by the canisters within five days.
Colville noted that UN officials are also alarmed by reports of abduction of protesters, bloggers, demonstration supporters, and social media commentators by unknown people.
“We call on the authorities to take firm steps toward a meaningful dialogue in Iraq, to take stock of the many grievances and work with a broad range of actors toward a sustainable resolution to the many challenges Iraq faces,” Colville stated, adding the UN “stands ready to assist.”
Since the beginning of demonstrations in early October, protesters have called for a radical change in Iraq’s governance, which they say has repeatedly failed to address their needs and instead serves the interests of a small governing elite.
Protestors also lament foreign influence in Iraq’s internal affairs, with the main target of discontent being Iran, which has entrenched itself in Iraqi politics, including through various proxies such as PMF militias.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany