Iraqi protesters injured while marking mass 2019 protests
Baghdad, Oct 02: Dozens of Iraqis were injured in protests held mostly in the capital Bahghdad on Saturday to mark the start of mass 2019 protests which called for social and economic rights.
Protesters tried to infiltrate several barriers set up by security forces in anticipation of the rallies. Rock throwers faced off with security personnel armed with teargas canisters and stun grenades near the iconic Tahrir Square in central Baghdad, the epicenter of the 2019 protests.
Medical and security sources told the Reuters news agency that the scuffles left some 64 people wounded, 26 of whom belonging to the security forces. Thirty-eight of the hundreds of protesters who took to the streets were hit by rubber bullets.
Some protests were also reported in the provinces of Basra and Nasiriyah.
This year's protest anniversary comes at a turbulent time in Iraq, with tension between its rival Shiite blocs bringing the state to the brink of a civil war on more than one occasion.
What happened during the protests?
Protesters revived the 2019's renowned chants saying "the people demand the fall of the regime." They gathered first at Al-Jumhouriya bridge, which connects Tahrir Square to the fortified Green Zone, where the country's governing buildings and diplomatic missions are located.
They attempted to overcome several roadblocks and barriers set up by security forces to hamper the rallies. Checkpoints were also erected, with bridges and squares closed off.
"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," Laith, a young protester, told Reuters in Baghdad.
An interior ministry official told the AFP news agency that protesters threw some barriers into the Tigris river, adding that they pelted stones and glass bottles at security personnel, injuring 18.
Reuters cited a military statement as blaming "infiltrated elements" for attacking security forces with Molotov cocktails and hunting rifles.
What is different about this year's anniversary?
The anniversary of the mass 2019 protests come this year amid significantly eased Covid-19 restrictions, for the first time since the initial anti-corruption rallies. The protests dragged on for months and led to the resignation of then prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Over 560 individuals were killed during the protests. Early elections were held last October and influential Shiite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's coalition claimed the majority of the seats.
However, disagreements over the new government formation followed, with Sadr's bloc at loggerheads with the rival Shiite power in the country, the Coordination Framework.
Sadr withdrew in June all his parliamentarians from the house, in a bid to push for its dissolution and snap elections. However, the Coordination Framework proceeded with consultations to appoint a new prime minister, causing further tensions between both blocs.
Sadr announced his retirement from politics late in August, as his supporters violently clashed with their Shiite rivals on the streets.
rmt/msh (AFP, Reuters)