Thousands of protesters took to the streets on Saturday for a second straight day of protests to demand jobs and better public services in Iraq.
According to Ali al Bayati, a member of the governmental Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, clashes broke out between protesters and police that killed 63 people and more than thousands wounded, the Efe news reported.
Security force members were among the causalities, the interior ministry said, while denying that police have used live ammunition against protesters.
Late on Saturday, authorities cut power to the area of Baghdad that includes Tahrir Square and riot police moved in to dismantle the tents in which protesters had planned to spend a second night.
Around 30 people were hurt in the operation to clear the camp, an interior ministry official further said.
Early on Friday, hundreds of protesters rallied in the square on the eastern side of the Tigris River and tried to cross the nearby al-Jumhouriyah Bridge to reach the Green Zone, the administrative centre of the Iraqi government.
Protesters, most of them young people, waved Iraqi flags and chanted slogans such as “They are all thieves,” apparently referring to the country’s political class.
One of the protesters, an unemployed 26-year-old university graduate named Ahmed Abdalamir, said that Iraqis have run out of patience with the “lying” government and its poor management of the oil-rich nation’s resources.
“I live in a wealthy country and the wealth goes to the people in power and their parties. But the ordinary citizen has nothing, only the lack of everything,” he said.
Among the many people bringing food and drink to the protesters in Tahrir Square was Ebtisam Abdala, 23, who graduated from university three years ago and can’t find a job.
She said that she and her mother prepared food for the people in the square out of support for those “who demand the right of all Iraqis to leave in a worthy country.”
This week’s protests came days after influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said that people had the right to take to the streets.
Earlier, an IHCHR statement said that the demonstrators in Wasit Province burned the Islamic Dawa Party headquarters and stormed the house of the governor in the province, while in the southern province of Dhi Qar, protesters burned the provincial government building.
The demonstrations came after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, while giving a speech on television, warned of chaos if the government resigns, and promised a cabinet reshuffle, more job opportunities and the establishment of a court to prosecute corrupt officials.
Earlier this month, massive protests broke out in Baghdad and other central and southern provinces over similar reasons that left 157 people dead, including security forces.