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The New Arab Staff

Dozens Iraqi protesters injured after deadly crackdown in Nasiriyah

Protesters have been demanding the resignation of the provincial governor [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2021

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Three protesters are said to have been killed and 73 injured in heavy clashes with security forces in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah.
Dozens of Iraqi anti-government protesters have been injured after another deadly crackdown on demonstrations in the southern city of Nasiriyah on Wednesday night, The New Arab’s Arabic-language site report.

Protesters are calling for the resignation of the governor amid complaints of corruption and instability.

A crackdown on demonstrations this week had resulted in dozens injured and as many as three killed as government forces used teargas, pepper spray, and live rounds to disperse the crowds.

Large numbers of troops were deployed across the city on Thursday while several major roads were closed amid reports of a curfew.

Baghdad has ordered security forces to show restraint against protesters after Wednesday's violence, The New Arab's Arabic language-service reported.

Up to three protesters have been killed and 73 injured this week, according to media and activist reports.

On Monday, guards fired on protesters after the local government headquarters was torched.

Protesters are demanding the dismissal of Dhi Qar Governor Nathem al-Waeli and other local officials, accusing them of corruption during the investigations into the killings of several activists.

They also believe authorities are too weak to confront militias thought to be behind a string of killings and kidnappings of Iraq's anti-government activists.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) condemned the violence in a statement.

"We strongly condemn the recent bloody acts of violence in Dhi Qar, and call on the authorities once again to put an end to impunity and to bring those responsible for this attack to justice," it read.

Government officials spoke with their local counterparts and protest leaders on Wednesday, carrying Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi's pledge to see through the resignation of the provincial governor "within days".

A Baghdad delegation is expected to arrive there on Thursday.

Falih Al-Ali, a protest organiser, told The New Arab that protesters would accept neither a piecemeal approach nor compromise on their demands.

"Our demands need to be met at once. That's the governor's resignation and holding him to account for corruption, and disclosing the identities of those who killed protesters and holding them to account," he said.

"Our demonstrations will not stop and we will not wait for Al-Kadhemi's promises. We are waiting for action and the rule of law in the province."

The southern Iraqi city has seen some of the worst bloodshed since the protest movement began in October 2019, calling for basic services and an end to corruption.

Since then, hundreds of young Iraqis have died, hit by live bullets or military-grade tear gas canisters that have pierced skulls or chests.

Security forces were widely blamed for the killings, though the government has repeatedly denied its forces shot at protesters.

Others were gunned down in what appeared to be targeted killings, including scholar and government advisor Hisham Al-Hashemi, shot outside his home in July. Iran-backed militias are believed to be behind many of these assassinations.

Last month, protests erupted in Nasiriyah calling for the release of activists and detainees.

Read more: Renewed protests in Nasiriyah demand the release of detained activists

Descending on Al-Haboubi Square, a central rallying point for protests in the city, demonstrators demanded to know the fate of a prominent activist Sajjad al-Iraq, who was kidnapped by unknown assailants in September last year.

A military operation failed to locate him, prompting sharp criticisms from the protest movement.

In the same square in November, protesters were forced out of their tents and shot at by supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, leaving at seven people and scores wounded.

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