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UN mission in Iraq proposes roadmap for ending upheaval

Monday, November 11, 2019

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — The United Nations' mission for Iraq yesterday proposed a roadmap out of the country's social upheaval, while Amnesty International said Iraq's crackdown on anti-government protests has descended into a “bloodbath”.

At least 319 protesters have been killed by security forces since the economically driven protests and unrest began last month, according to the latest figures from the Iraqi Human Rights Commission released yesterday.

Iraqi security forces put up concrete barriers in central Baghdad in an effort to hamper and block the movement of protesters. The measures come after security forces last week Monday violently cleared demonstrators from three flashpoint bridges in central Baghdad. By the end of the day, six anti-government protesters were killed more than 100 wounded.

The widening security crackdown reflects government intransigence and narrowing options for protesters who have been on the streets of Baghdad and the mainly Shiite south's cities for weeks. Authorities shut down Internet access and blocked social media sites several times amid the demonstrations.

The leaderless protests are targeting Iraq's entire political class and calling for the overhaul of the sectarian system established after the 2003 US-led invasion. Security forces have used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas in an effort to quell the protests.

Yesterday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq urged the country's politicians to chart a way forward and proposed a roadmap, saying time is of essence.

In a statement it laid out a series of short- and longer-term measures to deal with the crisis, including electoral reform and a series of anti-corruption measures. As immediate measures, it called for the release of all peaceful demonstrators detained since October 1, initiating a full investigation of cases of abduction and prosecuting and punishing those responsible for the excessive use of force.

Amnesty International said Iraqi authorities should immediately rein in security forces.

“The Government of Iraq has a duty to protect its people's right to life, as well as to gather and express their views. This bloodbath must stop now, and those responsible for it must be brought to justice,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director.

“All government promises of reforms or investigations ring hollow while security forces continue to shoot and kill protesters,” she said.

The protesters' most immediate demand is for the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi's Government. He's held the post for just over a year, and is refusing to step down.

Yesterday, security forces closed roads near the Khilani Square with one-metre high concrete barriers, trying to block protesters from reaching Baghdad's landmark Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests, and the Sanak bridge.

At least 19 protesters were wounded when security forces used tear gas to repel them, according to police and hospital sources.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security and medical officials said 31 people were injured in confrontations outside the education directorate as security forces tear-gassed protesters trying to block employees from reaching the building in the city center. Among those wounded were two students, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts, despite Iraq's vast oil reserves. They have rejected Government proposals for limited economic reforms, and instead called on the country's political leadership to resign, including Abdul-Mahdi.


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