- Demonstrations began three days ago in Iraqi cities, and have since spread across the country.
- "We want jobs and better public services. We've been demanding them for years and the government has never responded."
- The Iraqi government has responded by imposing a curfew and cutting off access to the internet and social media to make planning protests more difficult.
The death toll is rising in Iraq after three days of street protests against corruption, unemployment, and poor governance. In all, 22 have been killed as of Thursday, as the protests spread to virtually the whole country, despite the lack of a clear leadership structure.
Demonstrations began three days ago in Iraqi cities, and have since spread across the country, with a significant number of Iraqis taking part in the now nationwide protests. The anger of the protesters is being directed to none other than the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and his year-old government.
The visibly angry protesters are demanding a new political direction, and that more action be taken to combat corruption, unemployment, and poor living conditions. That includes water shortages in several Iraqi cities. “We want jobs and better public services. We’ve been demanding them for years and the government has never responded,” a 27-year-old protester, Abdullah Walid, told the AFP news agency.
The demonstrations continued today, and throughout the day, authorities dispatched anti-terror forces in the city of Nasiriyah because of the armed confrontations between protesters and security forces. The riots have since resulted in the deaths of 22 people with hundreds more sustaining injuries. The demonstrations are the biggest since Abdul-Mahdi was inaugurated as prime minister only a year ago.
Demonstrations also took place in Iraq last year. Iraqis took to the streets in large numbers protesting the government’s decision to shut off electricity in the south of the country due to a large unpaid bill. Much of the Iraqi population was without clean drinking water during the period.
The Iraqi government responded by imposing a curfew and cutting off access to the internet and social media to make planning protests more difficult. The same thing is happening this time around. From five o’clock in the morning, a curfew has been introduced for the Iraqi people. However, the curfew does not include health professionals.
In the same vein, the company Netblocks, which monitors cybersecurity and Internet governance, has revealed to the media that the internet has been turned off in 70 percent of the country, including in the capital Baghdad. The internet blockade has been put in place because security forces want to prevent several major demonstrations being organized through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram. All of these services were blocked on Wednesday afternoon, Iraq local time. Parliament’s Human Rights Committee has criticized security forces for suppressing protesters and has therefore called for an investigation into the violent clashes.
High unemployment in Iraq
Unemployment is a big contributor to the demonstrations that are rocking Iraq. According to the World Bank,16 percent of young people in Iraq are unemployed. Unemployment for the entire population is estimated at 7.9 percent. According to analysts expert opinion, the unique thing about this particular demonstration is that it is not led by any political or religious group, and thus the protests are primarily rooted in general frustration, making the movement difficult to negotiate with.