Spiralling Violence as Protestors and Security Forces Clash in Iraq

Ongoing protests in Iraq are continuing to see the use of excessive force by local security. On Saturday, at least 10 Iraqis were killed with dozens more wounded. This violence follows the episodes on Friday which saw at least 52 killed throughout the nation. The current death toll from the anti-government protests in Iraq for this month is now over 190 people and this number threatens to keep rising if security services do not curb their use of force.

This latest round of demonstrations in Iraq is the continuation of those which broke out in early October. These rallies have predominantly consisted of young and unemployed men, many of whom are demanding better public services and employment opportunities. Economic strife, however, is no longer the sole issue that demonstrators want solved, with the protests now demanding a revamp of the entire Iraqi political establishment. Al Jazeera reports that many Iraqis view their politicians as subservient to either the United States or Iran, rather than being concerned with local needs. Accusations of corruption are also rife, with one demonstrator saying “The government have been stealing from us for 15 years. Saddam [Hussein] went and 1,000 Saddams have been hiding in the Green Zone”.

Iraq’s protests have already drawn international attention. There are already preliminary reports from the United Nations which have found that massive violations of human rights have taken place amidst the recent demonstrations. On Friday, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres called on world leaders to listen to their citizens. “It is clear that there is a growing deficit of trust between people and political establishments, and rising threats to the social contract,” he said. “The world is also wrestling with the negative impacts of globalisation and new technologies, which have increased inequalities within societies. Even where people are not protesting, they are hurting and want to be heard.” Guterres’s comments come amidst a time of growing civil unrest throughout the world. As the protests in Iraq are ongoing, there are also mass demonstrations in Lebanon, Hong Kong, and Chile. While the reasons for each differ, there is a common thread: these respective governments are failing their citizens.

For the Iraqi people, the early 21st century has seen constant and protracted violence. While the state itself had appeared to reach some semblance of stability in recent times, the people have been struggling. World Bank data shows that nearly three-fifths of Iraq’s 40 million people are living on less than six dollars a day. This comes despite the fact that Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves. Current unrest appears unlikely to subside unless local government can prove that it is listening to, and trying to allay, the concerns of those demonstrating. Ongoing use of violence by security forces should not continue, as it is now only likely to fan the flames. The people of Iraq deserve peace and prosperity. As Secretary-General Guterres noted, these protests have not emerged in a void. It is up to the Iraqi government to find a solution; if they cannot, the nation may once again be engulfed in conflict.