- Title: Timeline of Iraq protests 2019
- Date: 20th December 2019
- Summary: Iraqi protesters occupied part of a main bridge in Baghdad on November 16 that security forces had pushed them away from a week before. Demonstrators also occupied a tall building overlooking the bridge, taking new ground in the centre of the Iraqi capital after protests had appeared to lose momentum. BAGHDAD, IRAQ (FILE - NOVEMBER 16, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS USING SLEDGE HAMMERS TO SMASH CONCRETE WALL ON SINAK BRIDGE PROTESTERS AT PARTIALLY-BROKEN BARRICADE PROTESTER STANDING ATOP BARRICADE WAVING IRAQI FLAG / PROTESTERS ON SINAK BRIDGE Protesters said they would not retreat from Baghdad's Ahrar Bridge on November 18, the day after regaining control over the third bridge leading to the city's fortified Green Zone. A number of protesters started dismantling concrete barricades built by security forces during the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in decades, while others marched in support of fellow demonstrators occupying the bridge. On November 16, Iraqi demonstrators reoccupied part of adjacent Sinak Bridge and a nearby tall building in Baghdad that security forces had pushed them away from a week before. They have held a third bridge, Jamhuriya, since October 25. BAGHDAD, IRAQ (FILE - NOVEMBER 18, 2019) (REUTERS) PROTESTERS GATHERED AROUND CONCRETE BARRICADE ON AHRAR BRIDGE LEADING TO BAGHDAD'S GREEN ZONE PROTESTERS JUMPING AND CHANTING BY BARRICADE ON THE BRIDGE VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS LYING ON BRIDGE GROUND COVERED IN BLANKETS Protesters burned tires blocking the road leading to the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf's airport on November 18, just a few hours after entry to Iraq's main commodities port of Umm Qasr was blocked again. Schools and government offices in many southern cities were shut in response to calls for a general strike. NAJAF, IRAQ (FILE - NOVEMBER 18, 2018) (REUTERS) YOUNG PROTESTER WEARING MASK MAKING VICTORY SIGN / BURNING TYRES BEHIND HIM YOUNG PROTESTERS DANCING AND CHEERING BY TIRES / PROTESTER FILMING WITH HIS MOBILE YOUNG PROTESTER DANCING STANDING ON MOTORCYCLE BY TIRES BURNING YOUNG PROTESTERS PLACING MORE TIRES ON FIRE
- Embargoed: 3rd January 2020 10:25
- Keywords: Iranian consulate in Najaf set on fire Iraq protests Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi police shooting protests
- Location: BAGHDAD, NAJAF, NASSIRIYA, KERBALA, BASRA AND AL ASAD AIR BASE, AL ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ / WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- City: BAGHDAD, NAJAF, NASSIRIYA, KERBALA, BASRA AND AL ASAD AIR BASE, AL ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ / WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Civil Unrest,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA009BA8UXC7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Hundreds of Iraqis have died in clashes between protesters and the security forces during street demonstrations that caught the authorities by surprise.
They were the first major deadly protests for more than a year.
WHY ARE PEOPLE PROTESTING?
Iraqis are fed up. Two years after the defeat of Islamic State much of the country's nearly 40 million population live in worsening conditions despite the country's oil wealth.
Security is better than it has been in years, but wrecked infrastructure has not been rebuilt and jobs are scarce. Youth blame this squarely on what they see as corrupt leaders who do not represent them.
WHY ARE CONDITIONS SO BAD?
After decades of war against its neighbours, U.N. sanctions, two U.S. invasions, foreign occupation and sectarian civil war, the defeat of the Islamic State insurgency in 2017 means Iraq is now at peace and free to trade for the first extended period since the 1970s. Oil output is at record levels.
But infrastructure is decrepit and deteriorating, war-damaged cities have yet to be rebuilt and armed groups still wield power on the streets.
A culture of corruption has persisted since the era of dictator Saddam Hussein and has become entrenched under the rule of sectarian political parties that emerged after his fall.
WHAT SPARKED THE LATEST PROTESTS? WHO ORGANIZED THEM?
The protests do not appear to be coordinated by a particular political group. Social media calls for protests gathered pace early this week. The turnout appeared to take security forces by surprise.
The inadequacy of state services and the lack of jobs are the principal reasons for public anger. A series of political moves by the government has contributed, especially the demotion of a popular wartime military officer for reasons that have not been fully explained. Some at the demonstrations were protesting over the commander's removal.
ARE MASS PROTESTS RARE IN IRAQ?
Major protests took place mainly in the southern city of Basra in September last year. Nearly 30 people were killed.
Since then, sporadic demonstrations have taken place but not on the scale of this week's events. These were the first large demonstrations against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's government, which took office in October last year.
IS THE UNREST SECTARIAN?
No. Most Iraqis have sought to avoid sectarian rhetoric after the brutal experience of Sunni hardline Islamic State - although sectarian tension still exists. These protests are about worsening economic and living conditions and are taking place mostly in Baghdad and the Shi'ite Muslim-dominated south, but cut across ethnic and sectarian lines. Anger is directed at a political class, not a sect.
That contrasts with protests in 2012 and 2013 that Islamic State exploited to rally support among Sunnis.
More than 440 people, mostly unarmed protesters but also some members of the security forces, have been killed since Oct. 1, according to a Reuters tally.
Protesters blame Iran-backed militia groups for a spate of other killings including assassinations. Many activists have been arrested or have disappeared, local rights groups say.
Paramilitary groups have denied any role in attacking protests. Government security forces also deny using live ammunition against peaceful protesters.
As demonstrations enter their third month, violence is spiralling with an increase in threats, kidnappings and killings of activists and protesters, according to activists and security sources.
The protests have led resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, but many said this is not enough. Protesters demanded the overhaul of a political system that they say is corrupt and keeps them in poverty and without opportunity.
The unrest is Iraq's biggest challenge since Islamic State militants seized swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in 2014.
(Production: Bushra Shakhshir, Vin Shahrestani)
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