Iraq anti-government protests, deadly clashes: October recap

AFP , Thursday 31 Oct 2019

At least 257 people were killed and thousands injured across the country since the movement began on 1 October

Security forces fire tear gas and close the bridge leading to the Green Zone during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 (Photo: AP)

Apparently spontaneous anti-government protests that started in Iraq on October 1 have escalated into deadly clashes around the country and demands for the government to resign.

With 257 people dead since the movement began and demonstrators camping out in Baghdad's iconic Tahrir (Liberation) Square for days, here is a recap:

- Spontaneous gatherings -

On October 1, more than 1,000 people take to the streets in Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq to protest corruption, unemployment and poor public services.

Heeding calls on social media, they gather in Tahrir Square in what seems to be a spontaneous movement.

Riot police disperse crowds with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. They fire live ammunition when protesters regroup.

The first deaths are reported.

- Unrest spreads -

On October 2, protests multiply across southern Iraq and riot police fire live rounds in the capital and the cities of Najaf and Nasiriyah.

Influential firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose bloc is the biggest in parliament, announces support for "peaceful protests".

On October 3, thousands defy a curfew in Baghdad and other cities, blocking streets and burning tyres.

Riot police and soldiers again fire live rounds.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi defends his year-old government on television, asking for more time to implement reforms.

- Sadr calls for polls -

On October 4, clashes intensify in Baghdad as security forces try to block access to Tahrir Square.

Several protesters are struck by bullets. Security forces blame "unidentified snipers".

In the evening, Sadr calls on the government to resign and for early elections under UN supervision.

- Death toll exceeds 150 -

On October 6, the cabinet announces reforms, including land distribution, boosted social welfare and the ousting of corrupt officials.

On October 7, the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi, a network of mostly majority-Shiite paramilitary units, says it will back the government to prevent "a coup".

Calm returns and Baghdad lifts security restrictions on October 8.

On October 22, an official inquiry announces that the death toll from the week of protests totalled 157, most killed in Baghdad.

- Second wave -

Protests resume on October 24, after calls on social media for rallies on October 25, the anniversary of Abdel Mahdi's government taking office.

Protesters begin camping out at Tahrir Square.

On October 25, demonstrators are out in their thousands, massing near the capital's high-security Green Zone and in other cities.

Deadly violence erupts as protesters set fire to dozens of government buildings and offices belonging to the pro-government Hashed paramilitary forces across southern cities.

By the evening, more than 40 protesters have been killed.

Security forces impose a curfew across several southern provinces.

- Sadr sit-in -

On October 26, protesters dig in around Tahrir Square, while three people are shot dead in Nasiriyah city as they torch a local official's home.

In the evening, lawmakers in Sadr's influential bloc, Saeroon, begin a sit-in at parliament.

They align themselves with the political opposition, having been a main sponsor of the government.

On October 27, students join protests in Baghdad, while four parliamentarians resign.

- Students, unions join -

On October 28, the protest movement swells as students, schoolchildren and professors take part in protests in Baghdad and cities in the south.

Trade unions representing teachers, lawyers and dentists declare strikes.

Parliament votes to summon Abdel Mahdi for questioning.

On October 29, the strikes and student rallies intensify after thousands defy an overnight curfew and stayed on the streets, including around Tahrir.

The next day, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission says at least 100 people have died and more than 5,000 been injured since the demonstrations resumed on October 24, taking the total dead since the start of the month to 257.

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