Iraqi students have taken advantage of schools and universities being suspended due to the Coronavirus outbreak to trickle back onto streets to protests against government incompetence, poor public services, and foreign meddling. According to reports, the Iraqi's have been protesting for months now and the anti-government demonstrators have started to take public health into their own hands. While speaking to an international media outlet, a protester said that the 'real virus is Iraqi politicians'.
As per international media reports, the Iraqi demonstrators have distributed leaflets and delivered lectures on Coronavirus prevention. They have also handed out free medical maks. Makeshifts clinics which were erected months ago to treat demonstrators hit by live fire and tear gas canisters are now reportedly dispensing gloves and sanitisers. Furthermore, volunteers in bio-hazard suits check the temperature of protesters lined up in organised queues.
The World Health Organisation reported that Iraq has less than ten doctors for every 10,000 residents. Last week, Iraq also reported its first Coronavirus case and the total number of diagnosed infections has since jumped to nearly 19 – all traced to Iran where nearly 54 deaths among 978 cases have been recorded already. This has further sparked public panic in Iraq which is a popular destination for Iranian pilgrims visiting Najaf and Karbala.
As schools, universities, cinemas, cafes, and other public places are reportedly ordered shut until March 7, the authorities expected a fall in the number of demonstrators. However, students took advantage of the situation and started protesting against the government. On Sunday, the anti-government protesters reportedly flowed into protest camps in Baghdad and Diwaniya to press for a government overhaul.
According to reports, since October 1, approximately 550 people have been killed and around 30,000 other injured. Last week, four protesters were shot dead in protest camps and one activist was also assassinated at his house. A protester reportedly said that political parties and corruption are an epidemic which is more dangerous than the Coronavirus. He further added that this is the outbreak that Iraqis want to get rid of because it has destroyed the nation.
(With Agency Inputs)