Iraq Protests : PM Mahdi calls for talks as thousands of protesters rally in Baghdad defying curfew

Iraq PM Mahdi

Baghdad, Oct 4: Iraq Prime Minister Abel Abdul Mahdi has on Thursday called for dialogues following the third consecutive day of a mass anti-government protest in capital Baghdad and several provinces.

In a statement, local media on Thursday quoted the prime minister’s office as saying, Mahdi was “continuing contacts” with the pro-democratic dissenters in an attempt to end the civil unrest and “return to normal life”.

The statement added PM Mahdi was ready to hold dialogues with “representatives of peaceful demonstrators to consider their legitimate demands”.

Following the second day of a clash between anti-government protesters and security forces, Iraq PM Mahdi has on Wednesday imposed curfew in Baghdad and other several cities in the wake of the mass rallies against poor services, lack of jobs and corruption.

Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the pro-democratic protesters in various suburbs. However, the government assured it will address anti-government protesters’ concerns while accusing unnamed “rioters” of civil unrest in the nation.

The statements as 4,000 individuals summoned to demonstrate in the capital, in defiance of the curfew imposed on Wednesday. In addition to the restriction imposed, Iraq’s authorities have also shut the internet service in Baghdad and several other regions.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported the death toll rose to 33 with more than 1,500 wounded. Restrictions have been also imposed in Iraqi cities of Nasiriya, Amara, Najaf and Hilla on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Lynn Maalouf, director of Amnesty International (AI) Middle East Research, said: “It is outrageous that Iraqi security forces time and again deal with protesters with such brutality using lethal and unnecessary force.”

“It is crucial that the authorities ensure a fully independent and impartial investigation,” Maalouf added. “The state must commit to holding those responsible to account.”

On Tuesday, Mahdi expressed grave concern over the pertaining protests and vowed an inquiry “to learn reasons” behind the mass demonstration.

The province’s airport, government employees in hospitals, ambulances, electricity and water departments, as well as, religious pilgrims were exempted from the restrictions imposed.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) has called on Iraq to exercise maximum restraint. “Every individual has the right to speak freely, in keeping with the law,” UN special envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said.


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