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  • The curfew was declared for indefinite time by Baghdad's main military commander.

    The curfew was declared for indefinite time by Baghdad's main military commander. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 October 2019
Opinion

The curfew provides cover for the security forces to clear the square, but protesters said they have no intention of going anywhere.

Iraq's government declared a curfew in Baghdad Monday after four people were killed and 277 injured in the fourth day of anti-government protests, and the coalition government’s most powerful erstwhile supporter called for early elections.protests.

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According to state television, the curfew, declared by Baghdad's main military commander, will be imposed from midnight until six o'clock in the morning, every day for an indefinite period of time. The curfew provides cover for the security forces to clear the square, but protesters said they have no intention of going anywhere.

Despite the measure, protesters in Tahrir Square have remained defiant as the most powerful supporter of the coalition government called for early elections.

"We will stay, now they have declared a curfew and severe punishments for anyone who doesn't go to work, that's how they fight against us, but we will stay here until the last day, even if there are a thousand martyrs," said one demonstrator.

Counting Monday's deaths, which according to medical and security sources were the result of constant tear gas bombing, more than 230 people have died during this month's riots across the country.

On the other hand, Shiite populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who supports the largest bloc in parliament and helped bring Abdul Mahdi's fragile coalition government to power, called for early elections shortly after a curfew was announced.

"Abdul Mahdi must go to parliament and announce early elections that will be overseen by the United Nations," Sadr said in a statement.

Massive street protests in Baghdad and other southern cities erupted earlier this month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks.

On Monday, security forces fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and joined thousands in Baghdad to protest their government while soldiers were also seen battering high school students in two districts of the capital.

In a country where oil wealth is considerable yet its citizens live in poverty or have limited access to clean water, electricity, basic health care, and education, Iraqis blame a political elite that they say serves one or the other of Iraq's two main allies, the United States and Iran.

Many believe that these powers are using Iraq as a proxy to continue their struggle for regional influence, without concern for the needs of ordinary people. Iraq is also recovering from years of conflict after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that overthrew Saddam Hussein.

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