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Karbala, Iraq demonstrations lead to more than 18 deaths

by Brianna Bush - Executive Editor
Tue, Nov 5th 2019 09:00 pm
Iraqi protestors (top, bottom) flood the streets of Karbala, Iraq in an attempt to retaliate against unstable government ruling.
Iraqi protestors (top, bottom) flood the streets of Karbala, Iraq in an attempt to retaliate against unstable government ruling.

For years, people have been taking a stand against the government by having demonstrations and protests that are anti-government or anti-war. Around the world, these demonstrations have been met by their respective governments or armies and violently forced to stop. On Tuesday, Oct. 29, in Bagdad, Iraq masked gunmen opened fire on protestors, killing up to 18 and injuring hundreds.

The attack on the protesters took place during the night hours in Karbala, according to the Post. Due to the tension between the government and the townspeople, many details about the shooting were in the midst of being covered up, fortunately eyewitnesses came forward.

According to The Post, “there were differing accounts and death tolls from Karbala, and details were still emerging from the scene.”

The protesters didn’t know what to think of the masked gunmen when they first arrived to their camp. When the gunmen showed up, the soldiers stationed around the camp abandoned their post after the chaos began.

According to the New York Times, Provincial Gov. Nassif al-Khutabi denied that protesters were killed and the videos that had been posted were fabricated and didn’t originate from Karbala.

The claims from al-Khutabi were proven to be false by an Associated Press (AP) on scene reporter, who took extended footage of the chaos and bloodshed. 

The protesters are fueled by their anger. They are angered by the corruption, economic stagnation and poor public services the government provides. Even though Iraq has acquired wealth through the oil industry, it still suffers from unemployment and collapsing infrastructure.

The protesters have tried to remain peaceful, even after being attacked and harassed for unknown reasons.

According to The Post, “One of the demonstrators said they were chanting slogans when an army unit arrived and that they gave the soldiers flowers and had friendly interactions. Then tear gas canisters came spiraling into the square, fired from the streets and alleys behind the soldiers, who then withdrew.”

It was unclear to the demonstrators why the government was taking such extreme measures to try and silence the protesters, especially when some were conducting a peaceful demonstration. One protester recalled approaching the soldiers with the flowers — a completely non violent act, only to be met with force and violence.

“We saw masked men dressed all in black and they fired live bullets toward the square,” the protester told AP. “People fell dead and wounded right next to me. We tried to escape but when we fled into the alleys we ran into moving checkpoints set up by these forces. They arrested people and searched their phones for video of what had happened.”

Although many of the protests have remained peaceful, there are some that have become increasingly dangerous. According to The Times, “The anti-government protests in Karbala and cities across southern Iraq have often turned violent, with security forces opening fire and protesters torching government buildings and headquarters of Iran-backed militias.”

The excessive force used by the government is what is stirring up the violence in the Middle East, turning mostly peaceful protests into battle fields full of carnage. Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf gave her opinion of the matter to AP.

“Iraqi forces opened live fire on peaceful protesters and resorted to excessive and often lethal force to disperse them in a reckless and utterly unlawful manner,” Maalouf told AP. “These scenes are all the more shocking as they come despite assurances from Iraqi authorities that there would be no repeat of the extreme violence used against demonstrators during protests earlier this month.”

This violence will not stop until change happens, and the people of Karbala call for a “sweeping change” in the government. If change doesn’t happen, the death toll in Iraq will continue to rise and the conflict will remain intact. 

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