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Water cannons are used to disperse the protest in Baghdad
Image: picture-alliance/Xinhua/K. Dawood

Iraq anti-government protests leave two dead

October 2, 2019

Thousands took to the streets in Baghdad to protest unemployment and the government's failure to provide basic services. But protesters were repelled by police using water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas.


Protesters in Iraq clashed with police on Tuesday during anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad and several other cities.

At least two people were killed and 200 wounded in what was some of the worst unrest to take place in the Iraqi capital in more than a year.

The demonstrations were organized on social media and began with a peaceful gathering of some 1,000 people, who marched into Baghdad's central Tahrir Square.

But things took a turn when police employed water cannon, and hurled stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Anger at authorities

Protesters, many of them university students, rallied against what they see as the government's rampant corruption and its failure to provide basic services and create jobs.

Read more: Iraq: Caught between militias and 'Islamic State'

"This is not a government, it is a bunch of parties and militias who destroyed Iraq," one protester, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals, told the Reuters news agency.

Protesters draped in flags confronted police that attempted to repel them
Protesters draped in flags confronted police that attempted to repel themImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Al-Rubaye

As they marched, protesters held Iraqi flags and chanted "those thieves robbed us!"

"The problem is that parliament is a bunch of gangs that have divided up everything amongst themselves," Abbas Fadel, a 30-year-old protester, told news agency AFP.

Unemployment and corruption

Iraq's government said in a statement that "groups of riot inciters" were responsible for the violence. Authorities said the security forces were working to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters.

According to the World Bank, the country has a high youth unemployment of around 25%. Iraq ranks as the 12th most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International.

Despite being rich in oil, the country had struggled for decades, first under the rule of Saddam Hussein and then after a US-led invasion in 2003 unleashed a civil war, which was followed by an Islamic State insurgency that was finally defeated in 2017.

jcg/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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