Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition in the air on Wednesday to disperse further demonstrations in two districts of Baghdad, after the president urged them to exercise restraint after the death of three demonstrators the day before. Bullets whistled around rallies in the Al-Chaab neighbourhoods of northern Baghdad, where about 300 people blocked a major highway linking the capital to northern cities. Police and witnesses reported that the soldiers had entered the area to disperse them.
Protesters also gathered in Zaafaraniya, in the southern part of the capital
The road to Al-Muthanna airport was closed in the Bab Al-Sharqi area, while demonstrators carrying Iraqi flags were heading towards Tahrir Square in central Baghdad. In the town of Muthanna, hundreds of people demonstrated outside government buildings, while security forces established cordons to protect the provincial council building.
In Maysan province, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the governorate building, while security forces deployed en masse in the region, but without confronting the demonstrators.
Security forces also dispersed demonstrators by force and using water cannons and tear gas in Diwaniyah.
In Basra, a demonstration took place in Um Al-Brom Square in the city centre under strict security control and the deployment of riot police.
Two demonstrators shot and killed in Nasariya
Two demonstrators were shot dead on Wednesday in Nasariya, 300 kilometres south of Baghdad, bringing to five the number of protesters killed since the beginning of Tuesday in Iraq in a wave of protests demanding jobs and public services, according to one official.
This official, Abdel Hussein al-Jaberi, Director of Health of the province of Zi Qar where the city of Nasariya is located, added that 14 people, including 11 members of the security forces, had also been injured.
Since Tuesday, three demonstrators have been killed in Nasariya and two in Baghdad, from where the protest began.
In Nasariya, the demonstrators also set fire to the provincial building in Zi Qar province.40 security forces members injured
The government said that 40 members of the security forces were injured during the demonstrations on Tuesday, October 1.
Call for major demonstrations next Friday
Calls have been made on social networks for continued demonstrations in various Iraqi provinces and large-scale demonstrations next Friday. The demonstrators are calling for the resignation of the government and the formation of a national salvation government.
Concern of the political class
Iraqi political parties expressed their concern at the resurgence of political tension in the country and called for the implementation of the demonstrators’ demands, while stressing the need for peaceful demonstrations.
For his part, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said: “We make no distinction between demonstrators exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully and those of our security forces who are fulfilling their duty to preserve the safety of demonstrators, the safety of their homeland, the safety of public property, but we clearly distinguish our victims, the two (actually three) peaceful demonstrators and our heroic security forces. Among them are non-peaceful aggressors who have brandished slogans punishable by law, threatening public order and civil peace and deliberately causing the death of innocent demonstrators and our security forces members who have been stabbed or burned. ”
“While we are saddened and deeply affected by the victims among our protesting children and security forces and by the destruction and looting of public and private property as today, we immediately launched a professional investigation to determine the causes of the incidents,” the statement said.
In a statement, the Salvation and Development Front, led by Usama al-Nujaifi, condemned the excessive use of force against the demonstrators and said: “This is a difficult day for Iraqi blood that has been shed in Tahrir Square or other Iraqi provinces.
“The FIS strongly condemns the excessive violence used to repress demonstrators in Baghdad and the southern governorates,” he said.
The United Nations on Wednesday expressed its concern about the violence and called for calm, as highlighted in a statement by the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Jenin Hennes-Blachart, in her statement.
“Ms. Hennes-Blachart urges the authorities to exercise restraint in the handling of demonstrations in order to ensure the safety of peaceful demonstrators, while maintaining public order and protecting citizens and public and private property.”
— Rudaw عربية (@rudaw_arabic) October 2, 2019