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2018–19 Iraqi protests
|2018–19 Iraqi protests|
|Part of 2018–19 Arab protests|
|Caused by||Unemployment and poverty
Poor basic services
Growth of ISIL
Dismissal of army commander Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2018–19 Iraqi protests over deteriorating economic conditions and state corruption started in July 2018 in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities, mainly in the central and southern provinces. During the latest nationwide protests erupting in October 2019, Iraqi security forces have killed over 100 people and over 6,000 have been injured, leading Iraq's president Barham Salih to call the actions of security forces "unacceptable." Some police have also been killed in the protests. The protests are the deadliest unrest in Iraq since the end of the civil war against ISIL in September 2017.
On 15 July, protests erupted in southern and central Iraq with protesters burning the headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah in Najaf and also sacking the city's airport. Protesters in southern Iraq have blockaded the border with Kuwait and have also occupied several oilfields. In response to the mass unrest the Iraqi Army redeployed forces in the north that were engaging ISIL and the White Flags group to the south to counter the rise in unrest. In response to the unrest flights from Iran to Najaf were diverted. During the protests in Basra two demonstrators were killed by Iraq's security apparatus, and protesters in Sadr City stormed the headquarters of the Iranian backed Badr Organization. On the next day, protesters in Basra began burning pictures of Khomeini and continued to storm the political offices of the Islamic Dawa Party, Badr Organization, and the National Wisdom Movement, the protesters also demonstrated against Iranian drainage of the Shatt al-Arab waterway which has caused water in southern Iraq to become saline. The government started to crack down on the increasing violence during the protests, and there were eight reported deaths among the protesters. On 21 July, a Badr Organization militiaman also killed a 20-year-old protester in the city of Al Diwaniyah.
On 3 September, Iraqi security forces killed Makki Yassir al-Kaabi, an Iraqi tribesman protesting near the provincial capital in Basra; in response to his death many tribesmen from Banu Ka'b have threatened to take up arms against the Iraqi government. A few days later, at least 7 people were killed and 30 wounded after a protest about the lack of public services in Basra was fired upon by security forces. On 8 September, an unknown group fired 4 Katyusha Rockets at the Basra Airport, no injuries or casualties were reported. The US consulate was situated at the airport, and it expressed concern for the developments in Iraq. No one had claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.
In October, two bodies of activists were found in Basra and suspected to be victims of assassinations carried out by Iranian-backed militias.
On 17 November, Sheikh Wessam al-Gharrawi, a leading figure during the protests against deteriorating public utilities and water contamination, was killed by unknown attackers outside his house in central Basra.
On 5 December, protesters demonstrating in Basra wore high-visibility vests, inspired by the French yellow vests movement. They demanded more job opportunities and better services. Iraqi security forces responded by firing live ammunition at the protesters but no injuries were reported.
On 20 June, Basra's summer protest returned as demonstrators gathered outside the city's new administrative headquarters to vent their anger about poor basic services and unemployment. The old headquarters were burnt down during 2018's months-long protest. Basra and the surrounding region produce about 90 per cent of the country's oil wealth but most of its residents have not benefited from it. Protesters blamed the Basra's authorities for the city's problems, from a lack of job opportunities to unreliable and poor public utilities. Riot police were deployed at the scene but the protest remained peaceful.
On 1 and 2 October, protests erupted in Baghdad and in several provinces over high unemployment, poor basic services, and state corruption. Curfew was imposed in Baghdad and several southern cities, but protests continued on the following days. The authorities had also imposed an internet blackout and shut down 75% of the country's internet access. Extra security troops were deployed at Baghdad International Airport. For some days, the security forces had fired tear gas, water cannon, and live ammunition to disperse the crowds. The death toll had reached 38 on 3 October, including three security personnel. These nationwide protests are among the largest that the country has seen in decades.
The protests are anti-government in nature, although Iraq Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi praised the protesters' demands as "righteous" in a speech broadcast on state television, and he agreed to make greater effort to combat corruption and provide a basic wage for the poor.
By 4 October, the death toll had reached at least 46 from the nationwide protests. The security forces fired live rounds to disperse the crowd of demonstrators in Baghdad. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr leads the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, and he ordered his party's lawmakers to suspend participation in the parliament "until the government introduces a program that would serve all Iraqis".
For the first five days of protests, the death toll rose as snipers killed a number of protesters and policemen. On 5 October, The New York Times reported that at least 91 protestors were killed; CNN reported that at least 93 people were killed, including police. On 6 October, the Iraqi parliament's human rights commission said that at least 99 people have died and nearly 4,000 have been injured. Government officials claim that 104 people have been killed and 6,107 wounded, with 1,200 security personnel among the injured.
The Independent quoted on an anonymous Iraqi source as saying that pro-Iranian militia had occupied parts of Baghdad, controlled snipers firing on crowds, and ransacked ten or more television stations. Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said at a press conference that “malicious hands” were targeting protesters and security forces alike, though the security force had also fired on the protesters, and Maan did not specify who these actors were.
As of October 7, Iraqi security forces had killed over 100 people, and over 6,000 wounded people were being treated in Iraqi hospitals. The Iraqi military acknowledged that it had used "excessive force," and Iraq's president Barham Salih condemned the violence against protesters and media, asking Iraqi security personnel to respect the rights of Iraqi citizens.
According to two anonymous Iraqi security officials, Iran-backed militias deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops during the protests. The sources told Reuters that militia leaders decided on their own to help put down the mass protests. A senior commander of one of the militias stated that his group was not involved in efforts to stop the protests or the resulting violence, and said Tehran consulted closely with government forces trying to quell the demonstrations.
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