At least 301 people have been killed and nearly 15,000 wounded in Iraq since the beginning of the anti-government protest last month, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq (IHCHR) said on Saturday. Fresh clashes broke out between Iraq's security forces and anti-government protesters in Baghdad and a number of Iraqi cities on Friday, despite a call for calm by the country's top Shia leader. According to global media, the security forces resorted to tear gas and live bullets in the southern city of Basra, injuring 100 people.
Nationwide protests in Iraq began in early October and escalated in waves. People are demanding the ouster of the government, as well as economic reforms, better living conditions, social welfare and an end to corruption. The scale of the protests is believed to be the biggest since the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003. Officials have attempted to regain control with the use of lethal force, as well as by imposing curfews and internet blackouts in the country.
Amidst the ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad and Shiite-dominated provinces in the south, Iraqi demonstrators attacked the Iran consulate in the holy city of Karbala on November 3. Protesters scaled the concrete barriers, brought down an Iranian flag and replaced it with an Iraqi one. As reported by the witnesses, in retaliation, the security forces fired in the air to disperse the protesters who threw stones and even burned tires around the building in the city south of Baghdad. There are no immediate casualties in the protests.
The protests are mainly directed towards the post-war political system and the class of elite leaders that Iraqis accuse of hindering the country's wealth while it is growing even poorer. Along with that, the demonstrators are also angry towards their neighbouring country, Iran and the powerful Iraqi Shiite military forces linked to it. The anger among the protesters has often turned the demonstrations violent. A day before they attacked the Iranian consulate, protesters blocked the main roads in Baghdad and parked their cars at major junctions of the city while the police refrained from intervening. Nearly 250 people have been killed amidst frequent clashes with the security forces. However, the protests have grown stronger while calling for drastic changes in the policy and not just the government's resignation.
(with agencies input)