At least two people have died as protests intensified in Iraq, with security forces using tear gas to combat demonstrators from approaching government buildings Friday, a member of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq said.
The official added that at least 95 other people were suffering from the effects of exposure to tear gas.
Hundreds of protesters gathered early Friday in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad for anti-government protests. Some attempted to enter the Green Zone by removing concrete walls placed by security forces on the bridge leading into the fortified area where the Iraqi Parliament and several Western embassies are situated, including the US embassy.
The Green Zone, an area carved out of central Baghdad by U.S.-led forces after their invasion of Iraq in 2003, is seen by many Iraqis as a virtual city within a city where privileged residents enjoy more security and better public services than elsewhere in Baghdad.
In a televised speech Friday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said a ministerial reshuffle would take place next week, focusing on “competencies and independence of ministers and increasing presence of women and youth.”
Anti-government protesters pull down concrete walls leading to the heavily guarded Green Zone.
”We will reduce the salaries of the three presidencies (President, Prime Minister and speaker of Parliament), lawmakers, special degrees, and directors to half salary,” he continued.
”The resignation of the government today without providing a constitutional alternative would lead the country to chaos.”
Earlier this month Iraqi government forces killed more than 100 protesters and wounded more than 5,000 people during a six-day period of protests. Across multiple cities there were mass protests against unemployment, government corruption, and a lack of basic services.
Iraqi President Barham Salih in an October 7 televised speech condemned using lethal force against protesters in Baghdad and ordered the opening of a “a judicial investigation” into the deaths.
“Targeting peaceful demonstrators and security forces by live bullets, and targeting the media and journalists is unacceptable in Iraq that we have embraced and pledged to make it a democracy in which the rights and freedoms are respected,” Salih said.