Tear gas canisters fired by police during demonstrations against the lack of public services caused the death of two protesters on Monday (July 27) in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has ordered an investigation, attempting to pledge protesters who accuse him of reproducing the violence of his predecessor. “I asked to see the results within seventy-two hours”, he assured during a speech given Monday evening to the nation.
On Tuesday, a third protester succumbed to his injuries after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister during night clashes with the police in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, according to medical and police sources. Thirteen other demonstrators were injured during the night from Monday to Tuesday.
The three victims are the first dead of the protest under the new government in Iraq. Triggered in October 2019 to denounce corruption and demand jobs, functional services and the fall of the government, this unprecedented movement was eclipsed at the start of the year by the surge in tensions between the United States and Iran which has almost degenerated into open conflict in Iraq.
Coming to power at the beginning of May, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi promised to start a dialogue to respond to the demands of the revolt. This, part of the iconic Tahrir Square in Baghdad, where the three demonstrators died, had spread to the whole of the South and had been marked by violence that left more than 550 dead, mostly demonstrators, and 30,000 wounded. Dozens of activists were also killed or kidnapped.
Human rights defenders then accused the police of using military-type tear gas canisters ten times heavier than elsewhere in the world to target demonstrators in the face.
On Monday, the two demonstrators who succumbed were hit by shots from these grenades “To the head and neck”, explained doctors. Their remains were carried in a funeral procession to Tahrir Square by dozens of people who demanded « justice » for the victims and launched calls for demonstrations at the end of the day.
Cruel lack of electricity
The nightly clashes, Tahrir Square, ended a day marked on Sunday by demonstrations in several other cities in the South, to denounce the cruel lack of electricity. This utility only provides a few hours of food a day as temperatures have exceeded 50 degrees Celsius in Iraq this week.
On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the local branch of the state-owned electricity company in Nassiriya, in the south of the country, and others protested outside the governorate of Babylon, south of Baghdad.
Each year, summer is the traditional season for events, especially due to power cuts. And so far no minister of electricity has managed to go to the end of his mandate, all having been at one time or another sacked to satisfy the street.
Mr. Kadhimi and his government made a commitment from their first statements to shed light on the deaths and violence since the start of the protest. But on social networks, many Internet users accuse them of reproducing the repression of their predecessors. One drawing shows, for example, the former Prime Minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, with bloody hands, giving tear gas canisters to Mr. Kadhimi. Mr. Mahdi had been pushed to resign by the street.
« Provocations »
Commenting on the nightly clashes, the military spokesperson for the head of government spoke of“Distressing incidents” for which ” An investigation is underway “. He did not mention the victims. “Faced with provocations, the security forces try not to resort to violent means, unless they are forced to do so”, he added in a statement, accusing “Parties who do not want the stability of Iraq to have provoked the security forces, pushing them to confrontation”.
The United Nations Organization Mission in Iraq welcomed “The will of the government to investigate”. More “Iraqis are going through a difficult time with many challenges, their right to peaceful protest must be unconditionally protected”, she added in a statement.