As protests continued across Baghdad and southern Iraq the security forces responded with more force leading to the number of civilian deaths to dramatically increase. Prime Minister Adil Mahdi made his first major response to the disturbances during a televised speech, which amounted to him saying it was the demonstrators own fault for getting killed. The two together will only increase the rage amongst the public and likely lead to more people hitting the streets in the coming days as the government faces its biggest challenge so far.
Prime Minister Adil Mahdi has been increasingly criticized for being ineffective, and proved to be once again when faced with the protests. At the start of October 3 he said that he was open for talks with activists. At the end of the day he gave a much anticipated national speech where he said that he’d only been in office for one year so people couldn’t expect any dramatic changes, and then went onto to say that he’d given strict orders on the use of force by the police, so it was the activists’ own fault for their deaths. If people were looking for some major announcement by the PM, or perhaps even his resignation as protesters have been calling for they were greatly disappointed. Mahdi offered them nothing. In fact, he said he couldn’t deliver anything substantive any time soon, and denied any responsibility for the on-going killings by the security forces. People have already been greatly angered by the authorities’ tactics. Mahdi’s speech is likely to provoke even more people to go out into the streets.
Iraqis came out in nine provinces on October 3 in the face of increasing violence by the security forces. In Baghdad, a reported 4,000 rallied in Tayaran and Al-Khalani Squares in the center of the city and marched on Tahrir Square, which was blocked off by the police. People again tried to cross the bridge from Tahrir to the Green Zone where the government is seated, but were turned back by the police that fired into the crowd. Yesterday, people marched on the Baghdad airport and there were continued confrontations there with more use of live ammunition. The security forces were using helicopters to drop tear gas upon people there, and two Humvees were burned as well. There were on going protests in other sections of the city as well such as Karrada, Sadoun, Sabi Al-Bour, Shula, Jihad, Ghazaliya, and Mesthal. In Zafaraniya not only were people wounded by gunfire, but the police then went into a hospital and arrested people. In Amil, checkpoints were set on fire, and a car allegedly driven by some Hashd drove into a crowd killing one and wounding five. The security forces tried to control the crowds by blocking off major roads in the city. This was the second day that demonstrations started at Tahrir Square and then quickly spread throughout the capital and into the some of the smaller towns on the periphery. Many of these devolved into running battles between protesters and the security forces with a large number of people having lost their lives due to police shootings, and even hundreds being wounded.
There were also protests in Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Muthanna, Najaf, Qadisiya, and Wasit that were almost all met by violence. In Hilla, the gathering was broken up by gunfire with one killed. In Basra city, the security forces were attempting to be pre-emptive and arresting people. An activist and his wife was also gunned down inside their house. There was also a small demonstration in Qurna to the north. Dhi Qar has seen some of the most unrest and this day was no different. In Rifai, people stormed the government building, and were expelled with one person killed. In Nasiriya there were clashes in various parts of the city. Gunmen in plain clothes were targeting people in one neighborhood. Activists tried to march on the governor’s house but were stopped. The Human Rights Commission said that ten died during the day. In Amara, Maysan people tried to gather at the government offices that were burned down the previous day. Security forces dispersed them and four were killed. The police blocked off central Najaf and arrested people, but that quickly escalated into shooting leading to three dead. There was another clash in Kufa that resulted in four dead. The same thing happened in Diwaniya, Qadisiya with two dead. People were heard calling for revolution in Kut, Wasit. Again, the police used live bullets and there were two deaths. There were demonstrations in central Muthanna as well. By the end of the day, Shafaaq News reported that 35 people had been killed in the three days of unrest. Amnesty International also called on the government forces to stop using excessive force. Last year, riots broke out, but they were largely confined to Basra. This time, violence immediately broke out on the first day due to the police, and only escalated after more and more people lost their lives. Right now, there seems nothing the government could do short of resigning to dampen the anger seen out in the streets. Add to that PM Mahdi’s horrible speech and the demonstrations will continue for the foreseeable future unless the government mounts a massive crackdown which could be coming.
Bas News, “Car of Hashd militias kill a protester and wound 5 others west of Baghdad,” 10/3/19
BBC, “Iraq protests: Shots fired as demonstrators defy Baghdad curfew,” 10/3/19
Al Hadath, “Iraq – Sources: Clashes between demonstrators and security near Baghdad airport,” Twitter, 10/3/19
Al Hurra, “Amnesty International calls on Baghdad to stop using force,” 10/3/19
- “Demonstrators break curfew, death toll rises,” 10/3/19
Iraq Newspaper, “Bloody Battles Are Now Taking Place In Al-Amil And Bayaa Neighborhoods, Burning Checkpoints, And Security Forces Arrest The Wounded In Zayed Hospital,” 10/3/19
Al Jazeera, “Iraq’s PM calls for talks as thousands of protesters defy curfew,” 10/3/19
Lebanon Files, “Demonstrators accuse pro-Iran parties of firing shots at them and suppressing demonstration,” Twitter, 10/3/19
Al Masalah, “Demonstrations moment by moment: Urgent…Expected speech by Abdul-Mahdi,” 10/3/19
Al Mirbad, “Abdul Mahdi: We put strict controls to prevent the use of violence,” 10/3/19
- “Demonstrators try to reach the building of Maysan province and security forces dispersed them,” 10/3/19
- “Muthanna source: Forces from the Counterterrorism agency arrived in the province to intervene in any emergency,” 10/3/19
- “Our correspondent: Muthanna demonstrators from the new generation of youth and non-partisan,” 10/3/19
- “Prime Minister: The escalation in the demonstration is causing loss of life,” 10/3/19
- “Prime Minister: There are no magic solutions within one year, unemployment and destruction of infrastructure we inherited from previous governments,” 10/3/19
- “A small demonstration in Qurna demanding job opportunities,” 10/3/19
Nas News, “Bloody events in 9 provinces since Thursday morning (Updated),” 10/3/19
Shafaaq News, “Death toll in Iraqi protests rises to 35 as protesters break curfew,” 10/3/19
- “Eleven dead and wounded and two military Humvees burned in new protests in Najaf and Baghdad,” 10/3/19
- “Security forces disperse a new protest in Diwaniya,” 10/3/19
Sotaliraq, “Situation In Iraq as of 10:30 pm: an unrespectful curfew and 30 martyrs including security forces,” 10/4/19
Al Sumaria, “Clashes between demonstrators and security forces occur in Rifai district,” 10/3/19
- “Security forces block main roads between Baghdad neighborhoods,” 10/3/19
Voice of Lebanon, “Demonstrators burn security checkpoints in Al-Amil neighborhood of Baghdad,” Twitter, 10/3/19