ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Hundreds of civilians in the disputed province of Kirkuk took to the streets on Wednesday as protests against corruption within the Federal Government of Iraq spread to other parts of the country.
Massive demonstrations took place in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Tuesday and continued on Wednesday across several provinces against ongoing corruption within governmental institutions.
Sources told Kurdistan 24 that large waves of people gathered on Wednesday at the governorate square in Kirkuk to protest against a lack of services and job opportunities as well as for a change in the system of governance. All roads to the governorate square are closed due to the protests, the sources added.
Initial reports indicate that clashes between security forces and protesters led to intense encounters in central and southern provinces in Iraq, resulting in the death of at least six civilians and riot police so far.
According to Iraq’s Ministry of Health, two civilians died, and another 82 were wounded during the second day of protests in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, in the southern Dhi Qar province, protesters set fire to the governorate building and several other public sector buildings, local media reported
Official data from the health ministry indicates that protests are ongoing in nine provinces in Iraq, including Baghdad, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Najaf, Basra, Babylon, Karbala, Wasit, and Qadissiya. Demonstrations in Kirkuk began on Wednesday evening.
The Maysan governorate building was reportedly set on fire after protesters entered the facility. The incident led to riot police using tear gas, water hoses, and live rounds into the air to disperse the crowd, Iraqi media reported.
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Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi held an urgent National Security Council meeting on Wednesday to put security forces and police on standby. The federal government also temporarily suspended work and school on Thursday.
Iraq’s Green Zone was also closed following security measures to ensure the security of government headquarters and foreign embassies. The Green Zone had recently reopened in July 2019.
According to a report Reuters published on Wednesday, internet access was cut across areas of Iraq except for the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Iraq has one of the world’s largest oil reserves and is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
However, the embattled Middle Eastern nation continues to rank high on Transparency International’s list for corruption, fraud, and mismanagement of state institutions, some of the most significant challenges facing the country since the fall of the former regime in 2003.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany