Rights monitor says three dead as protests rage in southern Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition into a crowd of anti-government protesters on Friday in southern Iraq, killing three people, a human rights monitor said.

It was the deadliest in five days of protests that have left a total of five protesters dead, the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights said.

Protesters also injured security forces in reaction to the use of live fire. Of the 271 injured in protests over the week, 147 were personnel of the Iraqi security forces. Nasiriya, in the province of Dhi Qar, has seen regular protests since late 2019, even after Iraq’s mass anti-government movement waned.

The movement brought tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly youth, to the streets of Baghdad and across the south to decry government corruption, unemployment and poor services.

Ali Akram al-Bayati, spokesman for the commission, said protests in the city never really came to a halt.

“It never stopped, this is because the city has been neglected without the new government achieving any of the promises it made,” he said.

Even when tents were cleared in Baghdad’ Tahrir square, considered the epicentre of the protest movement, those in Haboubi square remained. Protesters were calling for political and economic reforms.

Tensions reached a boiling point in late November when clashes broke out between remaining anti-government protesters in Nasiriya’s Haboubi square and followers of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The incident left several protesters dead.