- Title: Timeline of Iraq protests 2019
- Date: 20th December 2019
- Summary: Protesters got makeovers at the hands of barbers camping at Tahrir Square while members of a band regaled them with local music. Dancing to the tunes, protesters showed rare signs of unity and solidarity, moving past ethnic and sectarian divisions that tore the country's national fabric for decades. BAGHDAD, IRAQ (FILE - NOVEMBER 1, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MEMBERS OF BAND PERFORMING / PROTESTERS DANCING
- 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: LVA006BA8UXC7
- 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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