At least 40 protesters were killed in Iraq on Friday when security forces used tear gas and an Iranian-backed militia opened fire to try to quell renewed demonstrations against corruption and economic hardship, security sources said.
A government intelligence officer and a member of the powerful Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia were killed in a clash with protesters in the southern city of Amara, police sources said.
More than 2,000 people were injured nationwide, according to medical sources and the Iraqi High Commission on Human Rights (IHCHR), as demonstrators vented frustration at political elites they say have failed to improve their lives after years of conflict.
“All we want are four things: jobs, water, electricity, and safety. That’s all we want,” said 16-year-old Ali Mohammed who had covered his face with a T-shirt to avoid inhaling tear gas, as chaotic scenes overwhelmed Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square.
Sirens wailed and tear gas canisters landed amid groups of young protesters draped in Iraqi flags and chanting “with life and blood we defend you Iraq.”
The bloodshed is the second major bout of violence this month. A series of clashes two weeks ago between protesters and security forces left 157 people dead and over 6,000 wounded.
The unrest has broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq, which lived through foreign occupation, civil war and an Islamic State (IS) insurgency between 2003 and 2017. It is the biggest challenge to security since IS was declared beaten.
On Friday, eight protesters were killed in Baghdad, the IHCHR said. At least five of them were protesters struck by tear gas canisters, security sources said.