One dead, two hundred injured in Iraq protests

The protesters gathered for a variety of reasons, at least one of which was the recent dismissal of a popular counter-terrorism commander named Abdul Wahab al-Saadi.

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October 1, 2019 20:18
2 minute read.
One dead, two hundred injured in Iraq protests

Demonstrators disperse as Iraqi Security forces use tear gas during a protest against government corruption amid dissatisfaction at lack of jobs and services at Tahrir square in Baghdad, Iraq October 1, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/THAIER AL-SUDANI)

One person was killed and up to 60 reported injured in protests that swept Baghdad on Tuesday.

The protesters gathered in the afternoon at Tahrir Square, with thousands streaming across bridges that line the Euphrates River. Police and security forces used water cannons and then live ammunition against the demonstrators.

The protesters gathered for a variety of reasons, at least one of which was the recent dismissal of a popular counter-terrorism commander named Abdul Wahab al-Saadi.

Anger also boiled over against corruption and failed government investment in infrastructure projects. In general, people are angry that two years after the war on ISIS largely ended, the benefits have not dripped down to the average person. Protesters tried to reach the Green Zone and cross the Jumhuriya Bridge. Scenes showed smoke, tear gas and clashes.

Overnight on Monday, there were concerns among the security forces that protests would begin on Tuesday. They had to wait most of the day for it to happen and when the people gathered, many of them carrying Iraqi flags, they were peaceful. But the security forces waded into them anyway, using tear gas, water cannons and other methods.

Locals brought photos of Al-Saadi, the dismissed counter-terrorism commander, who was pushed aside under mysterious circumstances by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

By nightfall, it appeared around 200 people had been injured and, depending on the reports, one or several killed. Video showed some severe injuries, and live fire could be heard in many videos.

There are several controversies sweeping Iraq today, including looming indictments against other officers in the army. There will be provincial elections in April and candidates are already jockeying for various lists. Iraq leaders also seem to be a bit absent with the prime minister recently going to Saudi Arabia and a leader of the Popular Mobilization Units also out of the country. Muqtada Al-Sadr appeared weakened after he went to Iran for Ashura celebrations in September.

The protests are the largest since the summer of 2018 when protests roiled Basra. At the time, there was pronounced anger against Iran and Iranian-backed parties in Iraq. In May 2016, protesters stormed the parliament and Green Zone. These kinds of yearly protests are therefore symbolic of a larger anger and malaise, in which there are feelings that the government has systematically failed people year after year.


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