Iraq Under Martial Law After Scores Dead in Protests

  • Police reportedly fired live ammunition at demonstrators.
  • In Baghdad, curfews were in place from five in the morning on Thursday.
  • The government has begun blocking access to the internet and social media.

Thousands took to the streets of Iraqi cities for the third day despite the introduction of anti-riot police throughout the main cities. So far, at least 42 Iraqis have been killed and hundreds more injured. On Thursday, Iraqi cities, including the capital Baghdad, again saw thousands of people protest. The demonstrations continued despite the prohibition of traffic and the heavy presence of police.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi is an Iraqi politician who is the current Prime Minister of Iraq, beginning his term in October 2018. He previously served as one of the Vice Presidents of Iraq from 2005 to 2011, and as the Finance Minister in the Interim government and Oil Minister from 2014 to 2016.

Police reportedly fired live ammunition at demonstrators. News sources report that at least 42 people have been killed in the past three days, including at least one member of the security forces. Baghdad’s Green Zone said to have heard multiple explosions. News sources quoted Ali al-Bayati, a member of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, as saying that so far four people have been injured during protests by Iraqis. Most of the protesters are young.

The protests came a year after Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi came to power and posed a new challenge to the country, which has endured a long campaign against Daesh. The latest news from Baghdad indicates the peace and calm of the Iraqi capital has been broken. Troops are widely deployed throughout Baghdad.

The main road to Salahuddin province north of Baghdad has been blocked by security forces and police have blocked trucks and cars from reaching the capital, a police source told reporters. There have also been reports of small protest rallies from the city of Kufa, 5 km south of Baghdad.

Social Network Filter

In Baghdad, curfews were in place from five in the morning on Thursday. Security forces tried to block the routes leading to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. The protests began two days ago via social media. Now the news agencies have announced the filtering of these networks in Iraq. The rules have been in place since Wednesday in cities such as Nasiriyah, Amara, and Hilla.

Thousands of protesters marching into central Baghdad carried various flags, including the Iraqi flag and flags of some religious groups, according to AFP. Demonstrators tried to enter Baghdad’s green or protected area. The government’s anti-corruption commission is said to have ordered the dismissal of thousands of government employees to calm the protests.

Staff Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi is the second-in-command of Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (ICTS). He has been the overall operation’s commander of Iraqi government forces in Battle of Baiji (2014–15), Second Battle of Tikrit, and Third Battle of Fallujah (2016), the Hawija offensive (2017) in the war against ISIL.

Protesters are mainly protesting against severe corruption in government agencies, unemployment, lack of drinking water, power outages, and disruptions to various services. Most Shiite demonstrators are said to be religious. The proliferation of protests in Iraq has raised concerns among neighboring countries.

The dismissal of Gen. Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi, the commander of the Iraqi counterterrorism force, has also been one of the factors driving people to the streets. It is said that this high-ranking general is not affiliated with any of the factions and opposes Iran’s influence in Iraq. A large number of protesters posted, “we are all Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi” on social media. The hashtag has been widely used by Iraqi users.

A government official who asked not to be named told AFP that its main goal is to replace General al-Saadi with someone close to Iran so that anti-terrorism forces do not hinder al-Shaabi activities.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.

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