Fault lines of Iraq become visible as protests roar
Protests in Iraq have taken the lives of more than 100 people. For more than five days, young Iraqis have been expressing anger over chronic unemployment, corruption, and poor public services.
Violence grips Baghdad
Demonstrators gather at a protest during a curfew, three days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq on October 4, 2019.
The authorities have imposed a virtual blackout of the internet and confirmation of protest casualties in the provinces has trickled in slowly.
Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Sadrist movement piled new pressure on Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi as he battles to quell the unrest.
It came after Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged authorities in a midday sermon to heed the demands of demonstrators, warning the protests could escalate unless immediate and clear steps are taken.
No peace in sight
More than 6,000 people have also been injured since the protests against chronic unemployment, poor public services, and widespread corruption erupted in the capital on Tuesday.
More than 600 demonstrators have been arrested, of whom more than 200 remain in custody.
Iraqi authorities lifted a curfew in Baghdad on Saturday that the anti-government protesters had defied.
Traffic ran as normal through the Iraqi capital and streets and main squares were otherwise quiet. Concrete barriers blocked off areas where protesters in thousands clashed with the police during the week.
18 killed overnight
At least 18 people were killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and police in Baghdad on Saturday night, according to police and medical sources.
The scale of the protests has taken the authorities by surprise. Two years after the defeat of the Islamic State, security is better than it has been in years, but corruption is rampant, wrecked infrastructure has not been rebuilt and jobs remain scarce.
Government pledges reforms
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi's cabinet issued a series of reforms early Sunday after an "extraordinary" session overnight in response to sweeping anti-government rallies.
Early Sunday, his cabinet issued a decree including more than a dozen planned reforms, including land distributions, military enlistment and increased welfare stipends for needy families.