Protesters took to the streets of Baghdad today in protest over high unemployment rates, government corruption and sub-standard public services.
What began as a peaceful march this afternoon with over 1,000 protesters congregating in Tahrir Square in the centre of Baghdad descended into running battles with security services who responded to the angry protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets. According Mustafa Saadoon, director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, the security forces used “excessive force and tear gas against the protesters that resulted in the death of three protesters and the wounding of more than 250”. The exact number of casualties is not confirmed at the time of writing.
The protest was organised on social media and began peacefully with many protestors gathering in Tahrin Square, dancing, singing and chanting anti-government slogans before the security forces reacted by firing rubber bullets and tear gas indiscriminately into the angry crowd who responded by throwing rocks. The situation quickly turned nasty with many protestors being carried to safety injured and bleeding.
Waleed Ibrahim, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Baghdad, said Tuesday’s demonstrations were not organised by any political party, but were “in continuation of previous protests several weeks ago by unemployed university graduates protesting against the government’s failure to honour previous promises” to deliver jobs.
Many of the protesters today were university graduates who blame the Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and his government for not doing enough to provide jobs for graduates while others accuse the government of wider corruption and under investment in pubic services.