- "I call on the government to hand over their resignation immediately," Muqtada al-Sadr said Friday evening.
- Iraq has been witnessing violent protests since Tuesday, with 65 reported dead.
- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on security forces to show restraint on Friday.
For the fourth consecutive day, protests continued in Iraq despite dozens of civilian deaths. The demonstrations prompted Iraqi populist cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, to demand the government to resign. The UN Secretary-General also expressed concern.
“I call on the government to hand over their resignation immediately,” the Shiite cleric, and leader of the Sadrist movement, said in a statement Friday evening. “I also call for an early and fair election, monitored by the international community. We cannot remain silent with all these martyrs and bloodshed.”
Iraq has been witnessing violent protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators demanding jobs, better public services, and an end to corruption. The protests began in Baghdad before spreading to the provinces in the Shiite-majority south. Demonstrators raised their demands and called for the resignation of the prime minister after security forces resorted to violence to fight against the protests. The news put the death toll so far at 65.
A curfew, imposed since Thursday, remains in force in Baghdad and several southern provinces, but protesters defied the resolution and refused to comply. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi called for calm while more than 190 people were injured in the capital on Friday, but protesters criticized his promises of political reform. On Friday, Sadr blamed the violence on politicians who failed to improve the living standards of the masses and ordered them to implement the protesters’ demands.
The United Nations Calls for Restraint
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on security forces to show restraint on Friday, and respect freedom of expression during demonstrations throughout the world. The statement that did not mention any country by name.
The statement said, “the Secretary‑General has been following closely the recent waves of street demonstrations that have been taking place in several countries around the world. He is deeply concerned that some of these protests have led to violence and, regretfully, in some instances have resulted in a loss of life and serious injuries.”
The secretary-general asked the “security forces to act at all times with the utmost restraint,” and to deal with any act of violence within the respect of human rights. He also called on demonstrators to avoid resorting to force.
“The Secretary‑General restates that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights that must be respected. Upholding these rights is one of the bedrocks of our society and is crucial for advancing democracy, development, and peace,” the statement said.
In the same context, the Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Mohamed al-Halbousi, said Friday evening that his country needs a revolution to fight corruption. Halbousi supported the demonstrators’ demands and also called for a “swift investigation to hold responsible those who attacked the protesters.” He also called on the demonstrators to support the security forces that are fighting against terrorists and to preserve the state properties.