UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Demonstrators continued Sunday in Iraq protests calling for the “overthrow of the regime”, despite the agreement of political blocs to keep the current authority even if it requires the use of force against the protesters, while Amnesty International warned of a “bloodbath”.
Protests have been shaking the Iraqi authorities, coupled with bloody violence that has resulted since the beginning of the demonstrations on October 1, killing about 300 people, mostly demonstrators, and injuring more than 12 thousand according to an AFP count, while the authorities stopped announcing the numbers Victims.
The Iraqi political blocs agreed on Saturday to put an end to the protests, at a time accused by protesters of loyalty to Iran, which they consider the architect of the political system in the country.
In parallel, the authorities stepped up the crackdown on protesters and imposed stricter measures over the weekend as the Internet was cut off and social media was blocked.
According to medical sources, nine demonstrators were killed Saturday in Tahrir Square, the center of the protests in central Baghdad, as security forces fired live bullets and tear gas canisters, while three others were killed in Basra, the second largest city in the far south of the country.
The clashes continued on Sunday in al-Khalani Square, which is usually full of stalls and shopping for the whole day. The smell of tear gas fired by the security forces spread as dozens of protesters hid among the buildings.
– “Stay here.”
“There have been forces since Saturday evening trying to advance to Tahrir Square to break up the sit-in,” a protestor in his 1920s told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We are in Tahrir Square to serve our people, and we will not withdraw,” said engineer Azhar Qasim, who is active in health cadres providing medical services in Tahrir Square.
The demonstrations began demanding at first to tackle unemployment and improve services to escalate to “overthrow the regime” and change the political class that leads the country.
Security forces have laid concrete walls to isolate Tahrir Square as part of a new crackdown aimed at controlling the protesters. They have closed the entrances to three bridges close to the square in the heart of Baghdad, the second most populous Arab capital.
In Basra, the center of the oil province of the same name, protests continued, prompting security forces to impose a cordon to prevent demonstrators from approaching the building of the provincial council, AFP correspondents reported.
In the southern city of Nassiriya, security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators trying to close a new government department as part of a wave of civil disobedience that paralyzed a large number of government institutions in several cities in the south of the country, AFP correspondents said.
Despite the huge oil wealth, one in five Iraqis lives below the poverty line, and youth unemployment is 25 percent in a country that is the world’s second-largest producer, according to OPEC and the World Bank.
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to “immediately order an end to the continued and unlawful use of lethal force” against demonstrators.
“This bloodbath must stop and those responsible must be prosecuted,” said a statement from the independent human rights organization.
The clashes were accompanied by many cries that Iraq is living under a “new republic of fear” despite the departure of Saddam Hussein’s regime 16 years ago.
Activists and doctors taking part in the protests, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they felt the noose was tightening them as they were pursued and received death threats via social media or at the heart of the protests.
Janine Hines Blaschert, the UN representative in Iraq, said Sunday that she was receiving “information every day about demonstrators killed, kidnapped, arbitrarily arrested, beaten and intimidated.”
She denounced the “climate of fear” imposed by the Iraqi authorities, stressing that “fundamental rights are constantly violated” in this country.
“We ask the Security Council to hold a meeting and the international community to shoulder its responsibility, and they must reach a solution regarding the situation in Iraq,” said a demonstrator who puts a flag to Iraq on his shoulders. “Where is the international community? Are we on another planet?”
In turn, human rights organizations accused the authorities of “mishandling the crisis”, condemning its refusal to issue information, especially with regard to the number of dead and wounded.
The Parliamentary Human Rights Committee and the Government Human Rights Commission also demanded clarification from the authorities regarding “injuries sustained by weapons and hunting rifles” as well as the detonation of dozens of “sound bombs” near Tahrir Square.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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