Iraq protests: Security forces kill 3 and wound 84 in Baghdad, arrest 25 in Basra
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A new bout of anti-corruption protests in Iraq continued for the second day in a row on Saturday, with three protesters killed and 84 wounded in the capital of Baghdad and 25 others arrested outside a government building in Basra, according to media accounts.
Reuters reported that security forces confronted protesters in Baghdad's central Tahrir Square, a popular gathering location for the expression of public discontent. Three demonstrators were killed after tear gas canisters shot into the crowd struck them directly in the head. Another 84 were wounded, with no further specifics given.
A graphic photograph widely circulated on Iraqi social media the day before appeared to show a protester killed after a tear gas canister struck his head, bringing the reported fatalities from this cause alone in both days to four. Riot police on Saturday also continued the use of stun grenades to disperse demonstrations, a practice that has been condemned by human rights organizations
Iraqi security forces have also been increasing fortifications in Bagdhad, including assembling concrete barriers into blast walls that block venues commonly used for protest, including Tahrir Square.
As tensions flared on Friday, local governments in the provinces of Basra, Wasit, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Diwaniyah, Babil, and Muthanna announced they would be enforcing curfews, a security source told Kurdistan 24. In a number of these provinces, demonstrators also torched government buildings and several political party offices, as also shown on social media.
As part of apparent steps to prevent such incidents, Basra security forces arrested 25 protesters outside the governorate building, where the provincial council meets, a security source told local media outlet Shafaaq.
The Iraqi parliament also announced earlier today that it had canceled a scheduled session to vote on reform packages put forward by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi in purported efforts to address protester demands. The parliament building is not located in the area of the Green Zone that directly faces Tahrir Square, across a bridge over the Tigris River that security forces block during demonstrations, but is roughly a ten-minute walk further down.
The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights – which operates under the parliament – said demonstrators were killed in clashes between civilians and security forces or guards at political offices but gave no further details.
The ongoing unrest follows several days of calm after a week-long wave of deadly protests which left at least 140 people dead and thousands more injured, according to both the human rights commission and media reports.
In the days following the first surge of protests in early October, Abdul Mahdi attempted to calm demonstrators with promises of reform and a cabinet shuffle.
So far, such moves have failed to quell the anger of the public, which continues to call for a complete governmental overhaul amid shortages of public services, high rates of unemployment, and chronic institutional corruption.
Editing by John J. Catherine