It is estimated that over one hundred people have been killed and thousands injured over the course of the past week due to protests in Iraq.
Protests in Iraq have been intensifying over the course of the week. Demonstrators continue to fill Tahrir Square and the streets of central Baghdad, close to the governmental ministries to whom the protests are addressed. The increase in violence led to a push-back from the security forces that have caused a high number of deaths and injuries. Indeed the Iraqi army has recently admitted to employing “excessive force” in a bid to quash the protests.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abd al-Mahdi, has called on the army to withdraw from certain areas, including Sadr city, where clashes took place between the military and the protesters. The military recently released a statement affirming that it will “hold accountable” those individuals who were involved in using excessive force that led to the casualties of unarmed individuals.
A curfew was imposed in a number of provinces across Iraq by the Prime Minister, although it has been largely ignored.
The protests are as of yet disorganised, without a particular leader heading them and without any particular political and ideological direction.
“We do not belong to any party, we are from the people and we do not belong to any party”, commented one of the protesters out on the streets in Baghdad.
Nevertheless, certain political and military groups have taken stances during the protests. Leader of the Sadrist Movement Muqtada al-Sadr has cajoled the demonstrators and has criticised the current government. Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has urged both protesters and the security forces not to resort to violence.
There is general disillusionment with the political elite and mainstream political forces that the protesters see as corrupt. In an attempt to appease the protesters, Abd al-Mahdi has called for the implementation of a series of reforms, including a rise in unemployment benefits and an offer of new business loans. This announcement has nevertheless not assuaged the protesters in their defiance against the central government.