Nine killed as Iraqi security forces open fire on anti-corruption demonstrators

A demonstrator runs away from tear gas during  anti-government protests in Baghdad on November 24, 2019 - REUTERS
A demonstrator runs away from tear gas during anti-government protests in Baghdad on November 24, 2019 - REUTERS

Nine people were killed in rallies across Iraq on Sunday after security forces opened fire on groups of largely unarmed people demonstrating against government corruption. 

Six were killed in southern cities as authorities sought to stunt growing protests by any means necessary. 

Before dawn, three protesters were shot and at least 47 wounded by security forces in Nasiriyah, some 300 kilometres (200 miles) south of the capital Baghdad. 

The demonstrators had gathered overnight on three bridges over the Euphrates River and when they came under security forces’ lethal fire. A fourth man who was shot in the head later succumbed to his injuries. 

The deaths followed a night of chaos on Nasiyirah, Iraq’s fourth-largest city, which included government offices being set alight and the evacuation of infants and children from a hospital after tear gas was unleashed in the courtyard. 

In the country’s far south, on the Arabian Gulf coast, three demonstrators were killed and around 50 wounded after security forces used live rounds on demonstrators blocking access to the southern port of Umm Qasr. 

Police fire tear gas at protester in Baghdad on Sunday - Credit: MURTAJA LATEEF/EPA-EFE/REX/ REX
Police fire tear gas at protester in Baghdad on Sunday Credit: MURTAJA LATEEF/EPA-EFE/REX/ REX

The port had only been reopened by security services on Friday after demonstrators barricaded it shut five days earlier, grinding to a halt traffic at Iraq’s busiest port.

At least two people were reported to have been killed in Friday’s clashes there. 

Umm Qasr is where much of the food and medicine sold in Iraq enters the country, and where vital energy exports flow onwards to international markets. 

In Baghdad, the capital, two more protesters were killed after police used live fire to disperse demonstrators gathered in al-Rasheed street, one of the main downtown thoroughfares. 

Sunday’s violence brought the number of deaths in the anti-government protests to 339.

The demonstrations began in early October and have steadily grown since then.  Iraq’s state media said Sunday it counted 111 killed, including protesters and members of the security forces, although this tally is not clearly time-bound.

Vast numbers of Iraqis from across the social and religious spectrum have taken to the streets for eight weeks in a series of rallies against corruption and graft. 

They are largely united in their fury with a government that has failed them: despite the country’s vast oil wealth, one in five Iraqis lives below the poverty line, and one in four young people is unemployed.

Although the country’s leaders have acknowledged protestors’ demands as legitimate and promised change, including hiring more civil servants, reforming the electoral system and reshuffling the cabinet, rallies have continued. 

"We are not afraid of threats," said one protester, Salem Hassan, in the southern city of Amara. "We cannot remain silent in the face of the barbarism of the leaders and the time they take to satisfy our demands."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting