Iraqi forces clash with protesters as tensions rise


The clashes erupted after some of the protesters attempted to pitch tents in a public square, a week after similar protest tents, previously erected in Basra and Baghdad, were withdrawn.

Security forces prevent anti-government protesters from setting up sit-in tents in Basra, Iraq, November 6, 2020 (AP)

Iraqi security forces killed at least one anti-government protester with live ammunition and injured at least 40 others in the southern city of Basra, security sources and a rights official said.

This is the first murder of a protester by security forces in Basra since Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi took office in May.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry confirmed the death, but said in a statement that no Iraqi security forces were authorized to use weapons against protesters and that it was investigating the incident.

Deadly outbreaks have been rare since protests against the Iraqi ruling elite and demanding jobs and services largely subsided earlier this year.

READ MORE: Iraqis mark anniversary of October 25 protests with more protests

Security forces prevent anti-government protesters from settling in tents in Basra, Iraq, November 6, 2020.

Security forces prevent anti-government protesters from settling in tents in Basra, Iraq, November 6, 2020 (AP)

Tahrir Square

Last Saturday, Iraqi forces emptied sit-in tents in Baghdad‘s central Tahrir Square which had been the epicenter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted last year. They have also removed tents in Bahriya Square in Basra and other towns in the south which have seen large protests over the past year.

The removal of the tents has sparked tensions and protesters in Basra have tried to erect them again, staging protests in the city for three days. They are also calling for the governor’s dismissal and an investigation into previous murders of protesters.

Hospital officials said seven protesters were injured in Friday’s clashes. They spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations.

READ MORE: Iraqi protesters have changed their survival strategy

Security forces prevent anti-government protesters from setting up sit-in tents in Basra, Iraq, November 6, 2020.

Security forces prevent anti-government protesters from setting up sit-in tents in Basra, Iraq, November 6, 2020 (AP)

More than 500 killed since October 2019

In the months of anti-government protests that erupted under his predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi in October 2019, more than 500 people were killed, mostly young unarmed protesters.

Basra security sources and the rights official said several dozen protesters took to the streets of the country’s southern oil hub on Friday to demand jobs and basic services.

They were angry that Kadhimi generally did not respect both and that the protest camps had been cleared by security forces in Basra and Baghdad, the rights official said.

Kadhimi, who traveled to Basra on Thursday to visit energy projects and meet with provincial officials, pledged to protect non-violent Iraqi protesters and bring justice to the families of those killed by security forces last year and unidentified armed men.

Baghdad security forces were ordered not to use live fire to deal with protests marking the anniversary of the 2019 protest last month.s.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies


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