BAGHDAD, Iraq: At least 30 people were killed in renewed anti-government demonstrations in the capital, Baghdad and swept through several other cities in the country’s south.
The protests on Friday came three weeks after an earlier bout of rallies erupted as a result of widespread anger at official corruption, mass unemployment and failing public services. More than 150 people were killed during those demonstrations amid a crackdown by security forces.
Iraqi police fired rubber bullets and volleys of tear gas canisters in response to the fresh protests, with at least 30 deaths recorded in Baghdad and the southern provinces of Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Muthanna, according to the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights.
Iraq’s semi-official Human Rights Commission also put the death toll at 30, and said more than 2,000 protesters had been wounded.
The bloody unrest has been as a continuation of the events of early October, saying officials had failed to address the exasperation fuelling Iraq’s unfolding political crisis.
Though the government has in the intervening weeks said it will implement reforms and said the people responsible for killing protesters would be held accountable.
‘The ongoing turmoil has broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq, which in recent years has endured a United States invasion and protracted fighting, including against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group.
The demonstrations have posed the biggest challenge yet to the year-old government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who has pledged to address demonstrators’ grievances by reshuffling his cabinet and delivering a package of reforms.
The moves have done little to quell the demonstrators, however, whose ire is focused not just on Abdul Mahdi’s administration but also Iraq’s wider political establishment, which they say has failed to improve the lives of the country’s citizens.
Many view the political elite as subservient to one or other of Iraq’s two main allies, the US and Iran – powers they believe are more concerned with wielding regional influence than ordinary Iraqis’ needs.
Nearly three-fifths of Iraq’s 40 million people live on less than six dollars a day, World Bank figures show, despite the country housing the world’s fifth-largest proven reserves of oil.
Unemployment, particularly among young people, is a major issue. Millions of people lack access to adequate healthcare, schooling, water or power supplies, and much of the country’s infrastructure is in tatters.
Separate rallies in several southern provinces meanwhile saw at least 3,000 protesters storm the provincial government building in the city of Nasiriya and set it ablaze, police sources told the Reuters news agency.