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Despite gunfire, Iraq's protests burn on

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on October 29, 2019 - Duration: 02:37s

Despite gunfire, Iraq's protests burn on

Security forces killed 14 Iraqis in the city of Kerbala overnight, sources say, but thousands of protesters remain on the streets.

David Doyle reports.

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Despite gunfire, Iraq's protests burn on

Gunshots echoed in Iraq's blazing streets overnight on Monday (October 28) and for some, it was the sound of death.

Security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the Shi'ite holy city Kerbala, killing at least 14 according to medical and security sources, though the local police chief denied any deaths.

It's a return to tactics that have been denounced by the government's own inquiry into the bloodshed from a first wave of protests, at the start of October.

But in this second wave, which began on October 25, thousands of Iraqis have returned to the streets - driven by economic hardship and anger at a political elite that they say is corrupt.

The unrest has broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq which endured a foreign occupation, civil war and Islamic State insurgency between 2003 and 2017.

In a bid to regain order, a curfew was imposed in Baghdad overnight on Monday.

But protesters are defiant even though, they say, the government has threatened to cut their salaries.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE PROTESTERS SAYING: "Fine, we'll do without, there are so many young men that have been killed and lost their lives.'' On Tuesday (October 29), the UN said the death toll since protests first began on October 1 is at least 229.

It called for an investigation, and restraint.

But for many, it's already too late; in Najaf, south of Baghdad, a father is burying his son.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) FATHER OF THE KILLED PROTESTER, MOHAMMED DU'IBIL, SAYING: ''He took to the street as other young men have, calling for his rights.

He was met with a severe response, direct fire.

He didn't ask for more than his rights.

We want our homeland, our homeland has gone, we don't know where.'' Iraq boasts vast oil wealth, but many in the country live in poverty or have limited access to basics like clean water.

Many Iraqis blame a political elite they say is subservient to one or another of Baghdad's two main allies - the United State and Iran.

They say these powers use Iraq as a proxy in their struggle for regional influence, without concern for the needs of ordinary people.

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