Deadly protests continue in Iraq

Breaking out on the 1st October 2019, Iraq has been subject to the deadliest string of protests since 2003 and the capture of Saddam Hussein. Over 110 citizens have been killed and thousands more have been injured.

The government authorities have been attempting to contain the news from reaching international media by implementing a near entire internet blackout and controlling the protests from spreading. Security forces have proceeded to use violence, including tear gas and shootings in an attempt to break up the rallies and withdraw the threat it poses to the existing political system.

The unrest is headed by public anger towards the political system and what they perceive to be corruption that has accelerated post-2003. Poverty, unemployment and resentment towards the sectarian-based political parties have acted as the triggers of the protests, with participants refusing to back down without a definite solution in place.

Iraq stands today as the second largest exporter of oil, generating approximately £100 billion per year in oil exports, and yet the public has been drowning in poverty and living in grave conditions. Basic necessities such as clean water and electricity are a scarcity to the poorer sects, whereas the elites and ruling religious sects are accused of indulging in the country’s profits. Post-2003, the country has been characterized by its corruption and the divide between its elites and its ordinary citizens.

The current prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, vowed to put an end to political corruption and lift the living standards of the poor. This promise still stands unfulfilled, with Mahdi unwilling to really break the systemised economic inequalities.

Following the bloody deaths during the protests, authorities have received harsh criticism from many international voices. Political party leaders in Baghdad and the South of Iraq have resulted to using snipers to protect their systems and Mahdi has launched an investigation within the authorities regarding who ordered the shots.

As the protesters push on, and the authorities continue to respond with violence and discrimination, the country’s next course of events remain unpredictable, with the ordinary citizens refusing to concede without an answer.

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Piriyanga Thirunimalan

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June 2022
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