At least 25 civilians were killed and hundreds of others injured in nationwide rallies in Iraq this week, that escalated into violent riots between protesters and Iraqi security forces.
Thousands of Iraqi protesters have flooded the streets of most major cities across the country, chanting calls for “a regime change” over rising unemployment, corruption and abysmal public services. Iraqi security forces have used crowd dispersal means as well as live fire, in efforts to disperse demonstrations in several cities including Baghdad.
One unnamed Iraqi protester told Reuters that “They are shooting live fire at the Iraqi people and the revolutionaries. We can cross the bridge and take them out of the Green Zone.” In a statement directed at Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, the protester warned “they will cross the bridge. You better resign. Resign. The people demand the fall of the regime. The people demand the fall of the regime.”
In response to the growing instability, a curfew was declared in the capital until further notice, amid rising concern the unrest could deteriorate into the breakout of a civil war. Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi also vowed to immediately implement a series of reforms, in apparent efforts to alleviate the situation. “We have a project which we will present to the cabinet where we will provide wages to every family that does not receive enough income,” he said, stressing “whereas this will provide a minimum wage to every Iraqi family and a dignified life, therefore not leaving anyone behind or below the poverty line.”
Despite those measures, protesters have vowed to continue their street demonstration until all of their demands have been met. Another unnamed Iraqi protester told Reuters that even “Despite the curfew we are going out to protest to call for our rights. We want to change the regime. They have arrested our people. They have done things to our people they did not even do to Daesh (the Islamic State). They have beat them up and humiliated them while firing live gunfire. What did we do? Are we suicide bombers? We are here to call for our rights and all these people.”