The violent crackdown against anti-government protests has caused at least 149 deaths. A committee of inquiry blames snipers who shot protesters in the face and chest. Some fear new violence on Friday. The Iraqi Church calls for respect for the right to protest, urges avoiding all forms of violence.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean patriarchate has sent a note to AsiaNews saying that it is closely monitoring Iraq’s crisis, which could, in the coming days, lead to more violence. In its statement, the Patriarchate appeals “to the conscience of Iraqi officials, who are in charge, to listen seriously to their people, who are complaining of the current miserable situation, the deterioration of services, and the spread of corruption”. “Since the beginning of the demonstrations on 1 October 2019, our Churches have been praying for the recovery and stability of our country and we are following the protests planned to launch on this coming Friday, the 25th of this month.” A committee of inquiry established by the Iraqi government to look into the violent crackdown and excessive use of force against grassroots protests found that at least 149 people were killed. About 70 per cent of the victims were hit by bullets to face or the chest, most likely fired by snipers on rooftops in central Baghdad. The report highlights, once again, the responsibilities of senior officers and the security services, but does not blame Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi stressing that he did not give the order to open fire. “The committee found that officers and commanders lost control over their forces during the protests” against unemployment, poor public services and corruption, which led to chaos. However, “There were no official orders from the supreme authorities to security forces to open fire toward protesters or use live ammunition”. The Prime Minister set up the committee and promised a cabinet reshuffle and reforms, including steps to fight graft and provide government jobs for young people. For critics, this is just as window-dressing that will not soothe public anger. According to the Chaldean patriarchate, “This is the first time for the Iraqi people, since 2003, to express their peacefulness away from politicization, breaking sectarian barriers and emphasizing their Iraqi national identity”. For this reason, the Church stands “in solidarity with our people, sensing their pain, realizing their aspiration for a better future”. At the same time, it calls for “a peaceful and civilized way in their demonstrations, respecting public properties and avoiding any abuse”, urging “the security forces to respect the rights of protesters and to avoid methods of violence.” “It is time to address the accumulated problems in a responsible way, through serious dialogue, concrete steps, and also to look for efficient and specialized people who are known for their transparency and patriotism to manage the affairs of Iraq.”