UPDATE: Nur Hussein Ghazali is reporting that two demonstrators in Baghdad have been killed and two others wounded in “intensive” live fire as marchers headed for the Green Zone from Tahrir Square.
Even with the al Maliki government imposing a curfew on Baghdad, raiding organizers offices, and warning that protests might be the site of car bombs or might be the work of “Saddamists” and “Al Qaeda,” thousands gathered in the streets across Iraq to demand clean water, food, electricity and an end to corruption. The response – not much different from what we’ve seen in Egypt, Bahrain and now Libya which we’ll update shortly.
In Baghdad, entrances to Tahrir Square were blocked by security forces and a concrete blast wall was constructed across the bridge that leads to the Green Zone.
“We are here for change, to improve the situation of the country. The education system is bad. The health system is also bad. Services are going from bad to worse,” said 27-year-old Lina Ali, part of a protest youth group on Facebook. “There is no drinkable water, no electricity. Unemployment is growing, which can push the youth towards terrorist activities,” she said…
‘Where’s my share in the oil profits?’ one banner read.
“People are hungry. We ask the government to find job opportunities for the young. All my sons are unemployed, I’m here to express the injustice that we live in,” said 52-year-old Um Safa, who walked from Baghdad’s northeastern Sadr City slum to Tahrir Square in the centre to take part in the protests.
Many said they were shocked by the “indefinite” curfew on cars and bikes imposed late Thursday night, saying the government’s attempts to prevent them from demonstrating only motivated them more.
“The government is afraid of the nation!” said engineer Sbeeh Noman, who said he walked 12 miles to reach the square. “They have found out that the people have the real power. We have it.”
There are twitter reports that photographers from Reuters and AFP were arrested and Hamzoz, an activist who has been providing video and photos of the protests in Baghdad called in these reports: (follow Hamzoz here)Translation:
I am @Hamzoz from Baghdad. Protesters in Tahrir Sqare today were in thousands. But now People are getting exposed to sonic grenades and are getting beaten up by army. And right now, there is a Campaign of mass arrests throughout north of Baghdad. They are arresting some of the protesters and journalists who were covering the scenes. Translation:I am @Hamzoz from Baghdad, Iraq. Please deliver our voices. The Secret service and army cars are still roaming the streets of Baghdad, and are still detaining people. Currently, three journalists who happen to be friends of mine are arrested. They are starting to arrest protesters in Tahrir Sqare. Please help us.
Deutsche Presse confirms Hamzoz’s report saying. . . . [cont'd. after jump]
Journalists and photographers were reportedly among those detained, after security forces confiscated their cameras.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government has come under criticism for using force against demonstrators and banning live media coverage of the protests.
The United States-based Human Rights Watch said that Iraqi police allowed assailants to beat and stab protesters earlier this week in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
The rights group said they also observed Iraqi security forces intimidating protesters and preventing Iraqi journalists from filming or taking photos of the protests.
The France-based Reporters Without Borders also condemned Iraqi authorities for banning live satellite television coverage of the demonstration in Tahrir Square.
Here’s a sampling of reports from across Iraq by Aswat Al Iraq:
Sixteen demonstrators in al-Falluja were wounded in a random shooting by security forces after they stormed a government compound in the city, an informed source said… “Security forces opened fire randomly at the protesters, leaving 16 wounded,” he added.
The final count of casualties resulting from Friday’s demonstrations in Mosul city is five deaths and 15 wounded, according to a local security source in Ninewa…
“The injuries were the result of shooting, shrapnel and stun bombs,” he added, not giving further details.
Five protestors were wounded in clashes .. “More than 250 protestors attempted to enter the Soliman Bek council in Touz Khourmato, east of Tikrit, and clashed with security forces, during which five protestors were wounded,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
A source had said earlier that scores of protestors went to streets in Soliman Bek district, calling for fighting administrative corruption and improving services.
From the Green Zone, we learn that:
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad downplayed the violence and the impact of the curfew, saying that Iraq’s security forces “generally have not used force against peaceful protesters.”
“We support the Iraqi people’s right to freely express their political views, to peacefully protest, and seek redress from their government; this has been our consistent message in Iraq and throughout the region,” said the spokesman, Aaron Snipe.
With at least 13 protesters killed, scores injured and beaten and journalists arrested and blocked from covering the events, really Mr. Snipe?