Iraq protests: UN calls for end to ‘senseless loss of life’

Iraq protests: UN calls for end to ‘senseless loss of life’

The United Nations has called for an end to the “senseless loss of life” in Iraq as the death toll from anti-government protests nears 100.

Demonstrators say they are taking a stand against unemployment, poor public services and corruption in the country.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said: “Five days of deaths and injuries: this must stop.”

Those responsible for the loss of life should be brought to justice. she said.

On Saturday, security forces broke up a mass rally in the east of Baghdad.

Five people are said to have died in the latest clashes in the capital. Security forces are again reported to have used live rounds and tear gas.

At least 99 people have died and nearly 4,000 have been wounded since protests began in the capital on Tuesday before spreading to the south of Iraq, the Iraqi parliament’s human rights commission says.

It is the deadliest unrest since the so-called Islamic State (IS) group was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017.

It is seen as the first major challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s fragile government, nearly a year since he came to power.

The authorities have been trying to control the protests through curfews and a near-total internet blackout.

Corruption, unemployment and poor public services are at the heart of the discontent faced by young Iraqis today. The unrest began spontaneously with no formal leadership in mostly Shia areas in the south, and quickly spread.

Iraq has the world’s fourth-largest reserves of oil, but 22.5% of its population of 40 million were living on less than $1.90 (£1.53) a day in 2014, according to the World Bank. One in six households has experienced some form of food insecurity.

The unemployment rate was 7.9% last year, but among young people it was double that. And almost 17% of the economically active population is underemployed.

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