New bloody demonstrations in Iraq, the protest is gaining momentum in the south

A total of 26 protesters and two policemen have been killed since the beginning in Baghdad on Tuesday of a movement for jobs and against corruption. The dispute has since spread to almost the entire south of the country.

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Protesters flee riot police in Baghdad on 3 October.
Protesters flee riot police in Baghdad on 3 October. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

Clashes between law enforcement and protesters are becoming increasingly bloody in Iraq every day. A total of 26 protesters and two policemen have been killed since the beginning in Baghdad on Tuesday, a move that has since spread to almost the entire south of the country. Seventeen people died in the only southern province of Zi Qar.

On Thursday, 3 October, on the third day of a labor and anti-corruption movement, the special forces armored forces went into action in Baghdad to repel the crowd. Demonstrators on one side and riot police and military on the other flocked to the capital in waves, under curfew and where officials – the majority of the country's workers – were called to stay at home.

The security forces fired live ammunition into tanks in order to roll back thousands of protestors who had arrived on trucks with flags. In the center of Al-Tayyaran, protesters attacked these vehicles, burning two, reported a photographer Agence France-Presse (AFP).

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A major test for the government

In other cities in the south, clashes have also occurred and nine new deaths – including one police officer – have been reported by health officials at the end of the day. Authorities have declared a curfew in Diwaniya, 150 km south of Baghdad, trying to shut down shops and offices. Such measures taken the day before elsewhere, especially in Baghdad, have had no effect.

These protests are a major test for the government of Adel Abdel Mahdi, who is due to blow his first candle at the end of the month. On the street, protesters demand, among other things, functional public services in a country that has been running out of electricity and drinking water for decades, jobs for young people, while one in four of them is unemployed, and end of the corruption that engulfed the state budget in fourteen years – 410 billion euros.

The authorities, who denounce "Saboteurs" among the protesters, reacted by instituting a curfew in Baghdad and several southern cities in the night, without hindering the amplification of the movement. The Internet, from which calls for demonstrations began, has also been cut in much of the country.

Baghdad and the South are blazing

At this time, no political party nor religious leader has claimed the paternity of the movement, a rarity in a country used to denominational cleavages. On Wednesday night, however, Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr called on his numerous supporters, who had already paralyzed the country in 2016 with demonstrations in Baghdad, to organize "Peaceful sit-ins". If they join the ranks of protesters, whose number has grown steadily over the day, they could change the situation in the clashes, which usually break out in the late afternoon to continue until the end. 'dawn.

In the absence of a clear lineage, the movement appears marked from the geographical point of view: while Baghdad and the South are blazing, calm prevails north and west of Baghdad, mainly Sunni regions and recently ravaged by the war against the Islamic State (IS) group, as well as in autonomous Kurdistan.

Baghdad crystallizes the violence because the protesters seek to take Tahrir Square, separated from the ultra-sensitive Green Zone – where the main institutions of the country and the US Embassy sit – only by a bridge, Al-Joumhouriya, cordoned off by the forces of the 'order. Strong symbol, the authorities closed this sector which had been reopened to the Iraqis in June only, after 15 years of retreat behind walls and barbed wire.


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