October 9, 2019 / 1:14 PM / 8 days ago

Iraq has a calmer night after a week of protests

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi authorities on Thursday reopened the road leading to Baghdad’s Tayaran Square, scene of bloody protests in recent days, after the calmest night since anti-government unrest began more than a week ago.

Young tuk-tuk drivers wait to carry wounded protesters to transfer them to hospitals during anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq October 5, 2019. Picture taken October 5, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani


At least 110 people have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded in the capital and the south, since the security forces started cracking down on demonstrators protesting over corruption and unemployment.

Much of the unrest has been at night, but on Wednesday morning there were no reports of serious violence overnight.

Authorities reopened the main road to Tayaran Square in Baghdad, where security forces had shot at protesters only days before. It had been blocked off with concrete slabs and heavily policed since.

The security forces pressed on with their crackdown, arresting protesters after nightfall on Tuesday in eastern and northwestern parts of Baghdad, police sources told Reuters.

Police carried recent photographs of protesters to identify and arrest them, the sources said.

Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights also said about 500 people had been released from the 800 detained last week.

Intermittent access to internet returned on Wednesday morning, and protesters continued to upload video and photos from the rallies. The government shut down coverage almost immediately as protests began, according to an order by the prime minister seen by Reuters.

The offices of local and international media were attacked last week, and journalists have said they were warned not to cover the protests. With the internet down, there was little coverage of the protests on television.

Abdul Mahdi’s government has sought to address the grievances of protesters, who demand the removal of government and a political class they view as corrupt.

Ministers met provincial governors, to address grievances across the country, which include crumbling infrastructure, toxic water and high unemployment. But proposed reforms, some of which have been recycled from a package of proposed reforms after protests in 2015, are unlikely to ease public anger.

The unrest shattered nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq, since the defeat of Islamic State in 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the recent violence and urged Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to exercise maximum restraint and address protesters’ grievances, the U.S. State Department said.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison in Baghdad and Raya Jalabi in Erbil; writing by Raya Jalabi, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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