Protests escalate in Iraq’s Nasiriyah; deaths and injuries reported

The violence comes two days after masked assailants reportedly killed a lawyer and prominent activist in Iraq's Nasiriyah.
Anti-government protesters fought with supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Nasiriya, Dec. 2020. (Photo:Reuters / Ahmed Dhahi)
Anti-government protesters fought with supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Nasiriya, Dec. 2020. (Photo:Reuters / Ahmed Dhahi)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) on Sunday condemned violence during escalating protests in the country’s Dhi Qar province, leading to at least one death and dozens of injuries during clashes between demonstrators and the security forces.

Protests erupted again in the city of Nasiriyah after a “wave of arrests” by security forces targeting local activists. Condemning the violence, the rights commission said in a statement that the Nasiriyah events caused a police officer’s death and wounding of 111 demonstrators and security forces.

It was unclear who killed the officer. Kurdistan 24 could not immediately confirm the circumstances of their death.

The commission called on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi “to control the security situation in [Dhi Qar] province and take urgent measures to stop the bloodshed.”

Earlier, anti-government protesters in the province threatened more escalation, demanding an end to the arrest of activists. Since last Friday, protests in Haboubi Square of Nasiriyah have become increasingly tense, amid standoffs between the security forces and protesters.

On Saturday, the security forces fired live ammunition on protesters who sought to control Haboubi Square. Sources told local media that the demonstrators held the square, despite the crackdown, and blocked roads leading to it with burning tires.

A day before the violence, unknown assailants broke into the home of well-known local activist and lawyer, Ali al-Hamami, whom they killed, according to an IHCHR member. The killing came amid widespread arrests by local security forces.

Widespread anti-government demonstrations began in Iraq in late 2019 in response to crippling corruption, low living standards, and lack of public services. The movement, which was mostly concentrated in Shia-majority parts of the country, weakened throughout 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, a crackdown, primarily led by allies of the Iran-backed elements of the Hashd al-Shaabi militias, continued. Masked gunmen have abducted and assassinated many prominent activists and journalists reporting on the demonstrations.

Editing by Khrush Najari