Protests resume in Iraq's Sadr City as uprising enters second week
Iraq's government issued a second package of proposed social reforms on Tuesday in an attempt to meet the demands of anti-government protesters who have demonstrated nationwide for eight days, with the loss of 110 lives and 6,000 wounded.
Protesters demanding the removal of the government and a political class they view as corrupt have clashed with Iraqi security forces, mainly in the capital of Baghdad and the south.
Tuesday's 13-point plan issued by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi centres on subsidies and housing for the poor, as well as training and educational initiatives for unemployed youth.
Following a cabinet meeting, the prime minister posted his reforms on social media, although most Iraqis have been cut off from the Internet and social media for several days.
Protests resumed on Monday night in Baghdad's Sadr City district, with at least one of the security forces killed, although much of Iraq appeared quieter than it has been for a week, as politicians sought a way to end the uprising.
Violence erupts during protests in Iraq
Iraqis ushered in October with anti-government protests in Baghdad. These quickly deteriorated into violent confrontations resulting in hundreds of injuries and dozens of deaths. Unease remains in several cities. By Cristina Burack
Days of violence: despite promises of reform by the government, protests against corruption and mismanagement in Iraq continue. Once again on Friday people gathered in central locations in the capital Baghdad, as well as in the south of the country
Protests without end: following days of violent protests, a curfew was supposed to provide peace and quiet - after all, at least 100 people have died and some 1,600 have been injured. However, many demonstrators ignored the curfew and spent the night outside to protest further
Protests without a party: these are by no means the first protests against the difficult living conditions in Iraq. In some places, there are only four hours of electricity a day, and according to the World Bank, youth unemployment stands at 25 percent. Iraq's most senior Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani called for "serious reforms" before it was too late
Lockdown: there is already talk of the first protests "without flag, without posters and without party slogan". They were, however, obviously fanned by the dismissal of a popular general, Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi. In Baghdad, the demonstrators tried to enter the so-called Green Zone. Numerous government buildings and embassies are located in the high-security district
Allegations of police violence: security forces have been using tear gas against demonstrators since the beginning of the protests. The UN Human Rights Office in Geneva also fears that police officers have been using live ammunition and rubber bullets. Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi came under fire when he praised the security forces and blamed the unspecified "attackers" for the violence
The country's president, Barham Saleh (photo, March 2019), reiterated his condemnation of the violence and called for "restraint and respect for the law". "Peaceful protest is a constitutional right granted to citizens," Saleh stressed. The Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi Parliament criticised the "repression" of the protests
Iraqi security forces began arresting protesters after nightfall on Tuesday in eastern and north-western parts of Baghdad, police sources told journalists.
Police carried recent photographs of protesters to identify and arrest them. Iraq's semi-official high commission for human rights said about 500 people had been released from the 800 detained last week.
Iraq's military said on Tuesday one member of an Interior Ministry force was killed and four wounded when they came under fire from unknown assailants in Sadr City, where 15 people died the previous night in riots.
In a telephone call with Abdul Madhi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the violence, urging the government to exercise maximum restraint and take steps to tackle protesters' grievances, the U.S. State Department said late on Tuesday.
The two officials spoke recently, it said in a statement, but did not mention the date.
The violence has been the worst in Iraq since it put down an insurgency by the Sunni Muslim Islamic State group nearly two years ago and the biggest test for Abdul Mahdi, in office for a year.
The spread of the violence to Sadr City this week could heighten the security challenge. Unrest has historically been hard to put down in the district, home to about a third of Baghdad's 8 million people, with little electricity or water and few jobs.
Protesters set fire to tyres outside the municipal council building and courthouse in Mudhaffar Square, police said, adding that gunfire that targeted the security forces came from a crowd of protesters.
Demonstrators say they have come under attack from members of the security forces using live ammunition. Journalists have witnessed protesters being killed and wounded by snipers firing from rooftops into crowds.
Iraq's military on Tuesday called back into service those officers and soldiers dismissed on suspicions they abandoned cities and towns to an Islamic State onslaught in 2014.