Fresh clashes between Iraq’s security forces and anti-government protesters broke out in Baghdad and across the south of the country on Friday, despite a call for calm by the country’s top Shia leader.
Two Iraqi protesters died in the southern city of Basra when security forces intervened in anti-government demonstrations, a medical source said Saturday.
More than 100 people were also injured by live bullets or tear gas canisters, the source said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
On Thursday, Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters in Basra while dispersing them, killing three, according to a medical source.
Iraq’s youth unemployment is around 25% according to World Bank figures. It is also the 12th most corrupt country in the world according to several organizations that monitor transparency.
At least 270 people have been killed since the protests over a lack of jobs and services began in Baghdad on October 1 and quickly spread to southern provinces.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most powerful and influential Iranian TwelverShia marja in Iraq, wields enormous influence over public opinion in Shia-majority Iraq, held security forces accountable for any violent escalation and urged the government to respond as quickly as possible to demonstrators’ demands.
Earlier on Friday, al-Sistani warned against the exploitation of the unrest by “internal and external” forces which he said sought to destabilise Iraq for their own goals. He did not elaborate.
He said those in power must come up with a meaningful response to the demonstrations.