Violence returns to Iraq’s streets as protesters demand justice
After weeks of relative quiet, violent clashes erupted between protesters and security forces in the Iraqi city of Hilla on Tuesday, as authorities attempted to forcibly remove protesters from the city’s main square.
Muhammed al-Inzi, an Iraqi activist who has been protesting in different cities since October 2019 said that the “chaos” began as security forces attempted to storm the city’s main square, where protesters have been camped out since early May.
Protesters in responded by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
“The protests are ongoing in many parts of Iraq, but the number of protesters has decreased due to fear of coronavirus and being kidnapped and assassinated,” Inzi said from the city, situated 100 kilometers south of Baghdad.
Inzi revealed that several protesters were injured in the clashes, but couldn’t specify how many were hurt.
Videos shared on the messaging app Telegram showed protesters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Humvees patrolling near the square.
“Today’s protests only have one demand, which is bringing those who kill protesters to justice,” Inzi added.
Before the coronavirus pandemic placed the country on lockdown, Iraq had been rocked by months of nationwide unrest as overwhelmingly young crowds demanded jobs, services, and action against corruption.
By the end of November last year, former Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had resigned after mounting pressures from protesters and an official call from Iraq’s highest Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
With a new government appointed but the old establishment securely in place, the dormant movement erupted once again in early May.
At least 600 protesters and members of the security forces have been killed and more than 18,000 injured in the protests, according to human rights monitor Amnesty International.
In an official letter published on May 7, Amnesty urged Iraq’s newly-inaugurated Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to prioritize human rights, take action on domestic violence, and investigate the killing of hundreds of protesters during the country’s recent unrest. Source