Baghdad, Feb 25 (DPA) At least nine Iraqis were killed Friday in protests as thousands of people demonstrated amid tight security, demanding economic reforms, better social services, more employment opportunities and an end to corruption.
Thousands defied calls not to protest in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and other cities throughout the country, despite warnings from religious and political officials alleging that these protests have been masterminded by Al Qaeda and loyalists to former leader Saddam Hussein.
Five protesters were killed and dozens injured in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when security forces fired at people. Witnesses said some protesters were trying to break into a local government building.
Four people were also killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in the Iraqi town of Haweija located in the north in Kirkuk, a police official said.
Some 2,000 protesters gathered in Haweija Friday morning and set fire to the provincial council building.
While Friday was dubbed “Revolution of Iraqi Rage” by protesters, demonstrations had already erupted days earlier with at least two people killed in the protests.
In the southern city of Basra, up to 4,000 people staged a protest early Friday near a local government building, calling for the dismissal of the governor and accusing him of corruption.
Within hours, Governor Sheltag Abboud announced his resignation following demands by protesters, according to AlSumaria news.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government has come under criticism for its alleged use of force against protesters and banning live media coverage of protests.
The US-based Human Rights Watch said that Iraqi police allowed assailants to beat and stab peaceful protesters earlier this week in Baghdad.
“In the early hours dozens of men, some wielding knives and clubs, attacked about 50 protesters who had set up two tents in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. The assailants stabbed and beat at least 20 of the protesters,” said HRW.
HRW said that the attack, which took place Monday, came directly after police “suddenly vacated the area” and streetlights surrounding the square went out. Witnesses suggested the assailants were in discussion with the police before they attacked.
The rights group said they observed Iraqi security forces intimidating peaceful protesters and preventing Iraqi journalists from filming or taking photos of the protests.
The France-based Reporters Without Borders also condemned a move by Iraqi authorities to ban live satellite TV coverage of the demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
“The aim is to prevent Iraqis and the rest of the world from seeing the scale of the discontent. This violates the right of journalists to work without obstruction,” said the group.
Local sources told DPA that authorities imposed a curfew on vehicles heading to Ramadi city, to prevent demonstrators from heading there.
“There is a heavy presence of police and military forces in the streets,” the source added.