UN Iraq envoy calls for reform after escalation in protests

“The killing and injury of peaceful protesters, combined with long years of undelivered promises, have resulted in a major crisis of confidence.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24)The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on Monday urged the Iraqi government for a renewed push for reform and expressed concern about violence during anti-corruption protests that have been ongoing since late last year.

Amid the continued violence, security forces have killed over 450 protesters and wounded thousands more since demonstrations broke out four months ago. 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.

Hennis-Plasschaert emphasized the importance of pressing ahead to meet the needs of the Iraqi people.

“The killing and injury of peaceful protesters, combined with long years of undelivered promises, have resulted in a major crisis of confidence,” she said in a statement.

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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.

Hennis-Plasschaert noted that two months after Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation, political leaders remain unable to agree on a way forward.

“While there was public acknowledgment by all actors that urgent reform is needed, it is now high time to put these words into action and to avoid further derailing of these protests by those pursuing their own objectives, not wishing well for this country and its people,” she added.

“Any steps taken so far to address the people’s concerns will remain hollow if they are not completed.”

The UN Iraq envoy also reminded that the recent escalation in regional tensions between the United States and Iran have taken attention away from urgent unfinished domestic business.

“However, geopolitical developments must not eclipse the rightful demands of the Iraqi people. This will only further fuel public anger and distrust.”

Hennis-Plasschaert called on Baghdad to do everything to protect peaceful demonstrators.

“Violent suppression of peaceful protesters is intolerable and must be avoided at all costs. Nothing is more damaging than a climate of fear. Accountability and justice for victims is critical to building trust, legitimacy, and resilience.”

She also called on protesters to remain peaceful, “avoiding counterproductive violence and destruction of property.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany