Report: Iraqi Police Open Fire on Protesters, Injuring 111

Iraqi protesters are pictured next to burning tyres during clashes with police during anti-government demonstrations in the city of Nasiriyah in the Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq on January 10, 2021. - A policeman was killed today in Iraq, the army said, as security forces fired to disperse a …
ASAAD NIAZI/AFP via Getty Images

Anti-government protests in the southern city of Nasiriyah, Iraq, left one police officer and two demonstrators dead on Sunday, the Iraqi Army said.

The policeman was “killed by a bullet to the head,” a medic in Nasiriyah told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on January 10, the third consecutive day of the city’s protests.

Iraq’s military later confirmed the death, adding, “thirty-three other policemen were wounded in the events of the day,” without providing further detail.

Iraqi security forces allegedly “opened fire to disperse demonstrators – including some throwing stones” from Nasiriyah’s Habbubi Square on Sunday according to AFP, which cited eyewitness accounts.

Two demonstrators were also killed on January 10, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), which says it is funded by the Iraqi federal government but operationally independent.

The IHCHR posted a statement to its official Facebook page on Sunday condemning “the state of security chaos in Dhi Qar Governorate,” of which Nasiriyah is the capital. The turmoil in Nasiriyah “led to the exacerbation of clashes between demonstrators and security forces, and the result of which was the death of a member of the security forces and the wounding of 111 demonstrators and security forces, due to the use of live bullets, stones, and incendiary tools,” the commission’s statement read.

Nasiriyah’s Habbubi Square has served as the epicenter of a widespread protest movement since October 2019 when demonstrators staked tents in the plaza demanding government reform, including an end to alleged corruption, improved public services, and jobs. The state’s ongoing financial crisis and fiscal deficit mean Baghdad has been unable to fully address the protesters’ demands.

Demonstrators’ tents remained in Habbubi Square until November 2020, when supporters of Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr set the encampment ablaze in an effort to disperse the anti-government protesters, according to Al-Monitor. Ensuing clashes between Habbubi Square’s occupiers and Sadr supporters, known as Sadrists, resulted in the deaths of seven people on November 27. By the next day, however, anti-government protesters had reoccupied Habbubi Square, demanding Iraqi authorities release fellow demonstrators arrested in recent weeks.

State security forces attempted to disperse protesters from Habbubi Square once again from January 8-10, resulting in the latest casualties from the persistent anti-government movement.

“Security forces repeatedly fired in the air and launched smoke grenades towards the protesters, whose movement for the first time penetrated other parts of the city [of Nasiriyah],” AFP noted on Sunday.

A spokesman for the anti-government protesters told AFP on January 10 that Iraqi authorities had responded to their demands to release detained demonstrators by freeing 13 protesters and promising to release additional detainees on January 11.

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