Three killed in southern Iraq protests as Amnesty calls for urgent end to ‘bloodbath’

1 / 2
A protester jumps to avoid a tear gas canister fired by Iraqi security forces during ongoing protests in downtown Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP)
2 / 2
On Saturday, Iraqi security forces killed six anti-government protesters and wounded more than 100 others. (AP)
Updated 11 November 2019

Three killed in southern Iraq protests as Amnesty calls for urgent end to ‘bloodbath’

  • Amnesty International called it a ‘bloodbath’ and said Iraqi authorities should immediately rein in security forces
  • Mass rallies calling for an overhaul of the ruling system have rocked Iraq’s capital and the south since Oct. 1

BAGHDAD: Iraqi anti-government protesters clashed with security forces on Sunday, leaving three dead and dozens wounded as a rights group warned a deadly crackdown could spiral into a “bloodbath.”
Mass rallies calling for an overhaul of the ruling system have rocked the capital Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since Oct. 1, but political forces closed ranks this week to defend the government.
The consensus among the elite seems to have paved the way for a crackdown.
On Sunday evening, three protesters were shot dead by security forces in the southern city of Nasiriyah, while dozens of demonstrators were wounded in Baghdad.

 


The three deaths bring the toll to 15 protesters killed since Saturday, after nine were killed in Baghdad and three in the southern city of Basra when security forces cleared out protest sites.
Despite the violence, demonstrators tried to regroup on Sunday in Baghdad’s main protest camp at Tahrir Square, while hundreds of others dug in at the nearby Khallani square.
“Since last night, security forces have been trying to advance into Tahrir to empty it,” said a protester draped in an Iraqi flag.
Protesters could be seen trying to bring down large concrete walls that security forces had erected to cut off Tahrir from Khallani.
Smoke from tear gas covered Khallani as protesters ran for cover while ambulances and tuk-tuks zipped across the square to evacuate the wounded.
“For 16 years the authorities have done nothing for us and now they are killing us in cold-blood,” shouted a protester.

 

 


A medical source said around 30 people were wounded on Sunday in Khallani.
“This is turning into nothing short of a bloodbath,” said Amnesty International.
“All government promises of reforms or investigations ring hollow while security forces continue to shoot and kill protesters,” said Amnesty’s regional director Heba Morayef.
In the first official toll in days, parliament’s human rights committee said 319 people had been killed since protests first erupted, including demonstrators and security forces.
The committee said snipers were active near protest sites and hunting rifles were used against demonstrators as well.
Warning that a “climate of fear has set in,” the United Nations mission in Iraq UNAMI proposed a series of steps to end the crisis.
It called for “maximum restraint in the handling of the protests, including no use of live ammunition, ban the improper use of non-lethal devices (such as tear gas canisters).”
UNAMI urged the release of demonstrators and called for an investigation into the abductions of activists and doctors, who rights group say have been taken by security forces or armed groups.
It proposed a raft of measures to be undertaken over the next weeks and months, including implementing electoral and constitutional reforms, prosecuting those involved in corruption and enacting laws to prevent graft.
Public anger erupted in October over rampant corruption and a lack of jobs but quickly spiralled into calls to overthrow a regime blamed for perpetuating graft and clientelism.
Oil-rich Iraq is OPEC’s second biggest producer, but one in five people live in poverty and youth unemployment stands at 25 percent, the World Bank says.
The government has suggested a series of reforms in response to the demonstrations, including hiring drives, welfare plans, a revamp of the electoral law and constitutional amendments.
But it has resisted calls for an overhaul of the entire system, with rival political forces closing ranks around embattled Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi.
As demonstrators dug in at protest camps in Baghdad, defying tear gas grenades fired from security forces, others protested in the southern cities of Nasiriyah, Hillah and Kut.
Security sources stormed the Habboubi Children’s Hospital in Nasiriyah after staff held a protest and “fired tear gas inside the hospital,” health directorate chief Abdelhussein Al-Jaberi told AFP.
“We had to move the child patients to the Moussawi hospital to save their lives,” Jaberi said.
An AFP journalist saw a tear gas canister crash just outside the open doors of an ambulance and witnessed its team of rescuers gasping for air.
Police arrested demonstrators in Basra who tried to reach their usual protest site outside the provincial headquarters and blocked pupils attempting to join striking university students from leaving their classrooms in Diwaniyah.
Rights defenders meanwhile slammed the government for restricting Internet access, which returned intermittently to parts of Iraq on Sunday before being shut off again.

 


Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

Updated 28 February 2020

Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

  • Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting

AL-MUKALLA: As workers in Yemen’s major port Aden began preparing a coronavirus quarantine facility at Al-Sadaqa Hospital, rumors swirled around the city claiming that if patients were locked inside the hospital, the disease would quickly spread through neighboring areas. 

Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting. People living nearby besieged the hospital, while health workers inside staged a sit-in, refusing to work unless the Health Ministry canceled plans to build the isolation room.

“They threatened to kill me,” Dr. Wafaa Dahbali, Al-Sadaqa Hospital manager, told Arab News.

The hospital’s administration was forced to ask the Health Ministry to move the facility to another location, she said.

“Now we cannot even bring in basic protective items such as masks or gloves since workers will think we still plan to build the quarantine room,” she added.

Yemen, which is gripped by a civil war that has killed thousands of people since late 2014, has intensified efforts to counter coronavirus. But due to crumbling heath services, lack of awareness among people and the influx of hundreds of African migrants via the southern coastline, health officials fear the virus could spread undetected across the country.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health in Aden on Wednesday said that Yemen is free of the disease and all Yemenis returning from China had tested negative. Health Minister Nasir Baoum opened a quarantine center at Seiyun Airport in the southeastern province of Hadramout on Sunday, and said that he had ordered all sea, land and air entry points to ramp up detection measures.

Financial constraints

Health officials across Yemen told Arab News this week that health facilities are working at full capacity to cope with the influx of war casualties, and cases of seasonal diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and H1N1.

The appearance of coronavirus in Yemen would increase the burden on the country’s crumbling and cash-strapped health facilities, they said.

Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla provides health services to patients from the three southern provinces of Hadramout, Shabwa and Mahra in addition to treating victims of the conflict in Abyan and Jawf. 

Recently the Health Ministry decided to build a quarantine center at the hospital. Lacking sufficient space, a three-room kitchen was turned into an isolation facility.

However, Dr. Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s director, told Arab News that the facility could not afford to furnish the unit with medical equipment and staff lacked proper know-how.

“We have nothing at the moment. We asked the ministry for the names of health workers who would be trained by the World Health Organization on dealing with coronavirus patients,” Bamousa said.

He said that workers are not being encouraged to wear masks and gloves in order to avoid triggering panic. 

“My viewpoint is that we shut up till we are ready,” Bamousa said.

Health officials at Al-Mukalla, one of Yemen’s busiest ports, have asked sailors to complete declarations showing their movements before docking.

Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, said that teams of six health workers in each district in the province are visiting Yemenis who have returned from China. 

In the streets, people say that they get information about the virus from social media rather than official channels or local media outlets.

Hassan, a shopkeeper, said that he learned about symptoms of coronavirus and protection measures from WhatsApp. 

“I know that the virus targets the lung and causes fever. We are advised to wash hands and wear marks,” he said.