'Those thieves robbed us!': Thousands protest in Iraq against corruption, poor services

'Those thieves robbed us!': Thousands protest in Iraq against corruption, poor services
Over 200 protesters were injured and one killed as security forces fired tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets at thousands of protesters rallying against state corruption.
2 min read
01 October, 2019
The protests are the largest since Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi came to power. [Getty]
One person was killed and more than 200 wounded on Tuesday, Iraq's health ministry said, in a mass protest in Baghdad that security forces dispersed with a volley of gunfire and tear gas.

More than 200 people were injured, most of them from tear gas inhalation and some by rubber bullets, in the first major protest against Iraq's fragile, less than year-old government, according to police and medical sources.

The health ministry reported that at least one person was killed.

"Those thieves robbed us!" demonstrators cried out in a reference to Iraq's political class, just weeks before the fragile government turns one year old.

Iraq is considered the 12th most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International. Power cuts are rampant, water shortages common and unemployment is high, particularly among youth.

The demonstrators, almost entirely men, descended on the main Tahrir Square with Iraqi flags draped over their shoulders or wrapped around their foreheads like headbands. 

Others carried portraits of Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab Al-Saadi, who was removed from his post in Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service in a shock move this week. 

Riot police cleared the square a first time but the demonstrators regrouped, making their way to a bridge into the high-security Green Zone where government offices and foreign embassies are present. 

The gathering was the biggest demonstration against Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi since he came to power in late October 2018.

Protesters also gathered in Maysan and the southern city of Basra, which saw mass protests last summer against poor services and unemployment.

At least five protesters were injured by security forces during the protests, medical officials told The New Arab.

Some suffered tear gas inhalation while others were reportedly assaulted.

A protester who identified himself as Ali Al-Zubaidi told The New Arab that demonstrators had gathered after receiving invitations on Facebook.

Graduates have slammed the government for failing to hire them in a country where a vast majority of the labour force is employed by a bloated public infrastructure.

According to the World Bank, youth unemployment in Iraq is running at around 25 percent, double the national average.

Abdel Mahdi has also taken flak over last week's decommissioning of Saadi, feted as a national hero for recapturing Iraqi territory from the Islamic State group.

Since 2004, a year after the US-led invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, almost $450 billion of public funds has vanished into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen, according to official figures.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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