UN Calls for Peace Amid Violent Protests Throughout Iraq
Over twenty five people were reported to have been killed during violent anti-government protests in Iraq. The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, confirmed on Wednesday that there were casualties among protesters and security forces that resulted from violent confrontations in Baghdad and other governorates this week.
In a press release statement on Wednesday, Hennis-Plasschaert said that "[e]very individual has the right to speak freely, in keeping with the law.” She further urged Iraqi authorities to “exercise restraint in the handling of the protests.” The main issues that garnered protest were the lack of economic reform, unreliable public services, high unemployment rates, rampant corruption at both the local and national level, and the lack of accountability of politicians.
Hennis-Plasschaert offered comments on these issues, saying that "these are legitimate and longstanding demands. A direct dialogue, to discuss ways forward and to bring about immediate and tangible results, is of great importance.”
The day after the statement was issued, Iraqi authorities imposed a curfew in the cities of Baghdad, Najaf, and Nasiriyah. The southern city of Nasiriyah has been the site of the deadliest protests so far with 10 total casualties, including one police officer. In the city of Amarah, medical and security personnel confirmed the death of four additional protesters.
More than 1,000 individuals have been wounded in the demonstrations, while 62 people have been arrested, according to figures from Iraq's Human Rights Commission. “The hospitals are filling up,” said Ali al-Bayati, a spokesman for the commission, who added that many people are in critical condition.
Meanwhile, 75 percent of Iraq is without internet after major network operators restricted internet access, according to cybersecurity monitor NetBlocks. NetBlocks also reported that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and other social and messaging apps were blocked in Iraq by several internet providers as of 12:30 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
The spirit of the Arab Spring of 2011 is still very much alive. The protests in Iraq are just one of a myriad of protests across the Middle East. In recent weeks, protesters in Lebanon clashed with security forces over unemployment and rampant government corruption. In Egypt, there were several small-scale demonstrations protesting high youth unemployment rates. In Jordan, teachers went on the longest strike in the country’s history.