3 years ago, Iraq witnessed an unprecedented anti government protests. Today, dozens of Iraqis were injured after violence erupted when thousands of Iraqis gathered in Baghdad to mark the third anniversary of nationwide protests against corruption. Protesters waved the Iraqi flag and chanted “we want to overthrow the regime” as they met on Saturday in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square.
Many brandished portraits of those killed, and hailed as “martyrs”, in the wave of rallies three years ago – when at least 600 people were killed and tens of thousands more wounded. Security personnel were deployed across the city and closed off bridges and squares near the fortified Green Zone that houses government headquarters and foreign embassies.
The unprecedented protests of October 2019 lasted for months until the introduction of coronavirus restrictions. Demonstrators condemned rampant unemployment and decaying infrastructure.
In response, the police threw smoke grenades at the crowd, which left at least 28 protesters suffering from breathing difficulties as a result, according to an interior ministry official.The current political crisis stems from a dispute between Muqtada al-Sadr – who commands the support of millions of Iraqis, and whose bloc came out on top in October’s parliamentary elections – and his rivals the Coordination Framework.
Al-Sadr wants snap elections and the dissolution of parliament, but the Coordination Framework wants a new head of government appointed before any new polls are held. “We took part in today’s peaceful protests because we want our demands to be met … We want security, jobs and our simple rights … We are not here to fight or shed blood,” said Laith, a young protester from Baghdad.
Iraq still has no stable government and no solutions. The past several months witnessed rise in tensions, protests, and dissatisfaction with the ongoing situation. At this rate, the future of Iraq remains unclear.