Protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square still waiting for government to fulfil demands after year

Thousands gather to commemorate October demonstrations
Iraqi demonstrators gather to mark the first anniversary of the anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq October 25, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

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SULAIMANI — Thousands gathered on Sunday (October 25) in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and in cities across Iraq’s central and southern governorates to mark the anniversary of the start of the second wave of last year’s anti-government protests and to renew their demands for justice for those who were killed during the demonstrations.

The protesters also called on the authorities to root out corruption, provide jobs and services, and ensure free and fair early elections.

NRT Digital Media reporter Omed Muhammad said that the protest in Tahrir Square initially had a calmer atmosphere than those of the previous year, but that later the security forces used tear gas and water cannons on a group of protesters trying to cross Jumhuriya Bridge into the Green Zone.

“The rights and blood of those killed [during the protests] have not been compensated,” one protester told NRT, saying that few of their demands have been met, other than a promise for early elections in June.

Another activist said that a primary demand is for those who were involved in the killing of protesters to be held accountable.

“We are telling the government of Mustafa al-Kadhimi that the people are running out of patience. There are not services, not salaries, not ration coupons…the people have collapsed,” she said.

A third protester said that the same elite group that had been in power before the protests remained in control and was not taking their demands seriously.

On Sunday, protests were also taking place in Basra, Najaf, and numerous other cities across the south.

In a speech marking the first anniversary of the second wave of the October demonstrations on Saturday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for protesters to remain peaceful.

On Sunday, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) called for the government to protect the protesters’ freedom of expression and assembly and to respond to “the legitimate demands of the demonstrators, who contribute to bringing about positive change and enhancing the human rights situation in Iraq.”

In a statement, it also called on protesters to cooperate with the security forces.

The first wave of protests began last year on October 1 and lasted for approximately a week before resuming on October 25. The demonstrations were widespread throughout the central and southern governorates.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has documented that 487 protesters were killed since October 1, 2019, mostly by the security forces or unidentified third groups. Thousands of others were wounded.

Some groups have alleged that the death and injury toll is much higher.

In response to the demonstrations, then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi stepped down in November.

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. EBL