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Iraq: more than a month of anti-regime protests

 

 

Anti-government protests that started in Iraq on October 1 have escalated into countrywide deadly clashes and demands for the government to resign. Some 270 people have lost their lives.

Here is a recap:

Spontaneous gatherings

On October 1, more than 1000 people take to the streets in Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq to protest corruption, unemployment and poor public services.

Heeding calls on social media, they gather in Tahrir Square in what seems to be a spontaneous movement.

Riot police disperse crowds with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. They fire live ammunition when protesters regroup.

The first deaths are reported.

Unrest spreads

The next day protests multiply across southern Iraq and riot police fire live rounds in the capital and the cities of Najaf and Nasiriyah.

Influential firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose bloc is the biggest in parliament, announces support for “peaceful protests”.

On October 3, thousands defy a curfew in Baghdad and other cities, blocking streets and burning tyres.

Riot police and soldiers again fire live rounds.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi defends his year-old government on television, asking for more time to implement reforms.

Sadr calls for polls

On October 4, clashes intensify in Baghdad as security forces try to block access to Tahrir Square.

Several protesters are struck by bullets. Security forces blame “unidentified snipers”.

In the evening, Sadr calls on the government to resign and for early elections under UN supervision.

Death toll exceeds 150

On October 6, the cabinet announces reforms, including land distribution, boosted social welfare and the ousting of corrupt officials.

The powerful Hashed al-Shaabi, a network of mostly majority-Shiite paramilitary units, says on October 7 that it will back the government to prevent “a coup”.

On October 22, an official inquiry announces that the death toll from the week of protests totalled 157, most killed in Baghdad.

Deadly second wave

Protests resume on October 24, after calls on social media for rallies on October 25, the anniversary of Abdel Mahdi’s government taking office.

Rallies take a dangerous new turn as protesters torch dozens of provincial government buildings and offices tied to the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

At least 63 people are killed over just two days, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

Sadr sit-in

On October 26 lawmakers in Sadr’s influential bloc, Saeroon, begin a sit-in at parliament.

They align themselves with the political opposition, having been a main sponsor of the government.

On October 27, students join protests in Baghdad, while four parliamentarians resign.

Students, unions join

On October 28, the protest movement swells as students, schoolchildren and professors take part in protests in Baghdad and cities in the south.

Trade unions representing teachers, lawyers and dentists declare strikes.

The next day the strikes and student rallies intensify after thousands defy an overnight curfew and stay on the streets.

The next day, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission says at least 100 people have died and more than 5,000 been injured since the demonstrations resumed on October 24.

On October 31 Saleh vows to hold early parliamentary elections once a new law is passed and says the country’s embattled prime minister would resign if an alternative was found.

A day later Iraq’s top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, warns foreign actors against interfering in his country’s anti-government protests.

Live ammunition

On November 3 a general strike shuts down streets, schools and government offices in Baghdad and the south.

Overnight four protesters are shot dead outside the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Karbala, as they aimed fireworks at the building.

On November 4 Iraqi security forces fire live rounds at protesters in the capital as they massed near the state television headquarters.

© Agence France-Presse

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