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Iraqi Authorities "Violently" Disperse Demonstrators: HRW

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Iraqi authorities have "violently" dispersed the anti-government protesters in the past few days, Human Rights Watch has revealed, noting that it seemed to be coordinations to end the demonstrations in different cities.

HRW said in a report that the Iraqi security forces raided the protest sites in Baghdad, Nasiriyah, and Basra between January 25 and 27, 2020, setting fire to protesters' tents and used live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators.

Protests have been on going in the capital Baghdad and other southern provinces since early October, 2019, as the demonstrators are determined to stay in the streets until their demands are meant, which are to provide better public services and job opportunities.

"The burning of protester tents in city squares looks like a coordinated effort by Iraqi authorities to force peaceful protesters from public spaces," said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW.

"Instead of using unjustifiable force, Baghdad authorities should meet protesters’ demands by addressing rampant corruption and improving access to basic services and jobs."

HRW also interviewed nine protesters and three medics in Baghdad, Basra, and Nasiriyah, who revealed that they had not been warned of the military campaign against them, while other witnesses said that armed men in unmarked uniforms arrived at the protest sites and started to beat and detain people.

Another protester said that he saw the security forces in al-Khalani Square opening fire with AK-47s and hunting rifles, while launching tear gas cartridges at the demonstrators.

"I saw them shoot two protesters in the legs, drag some of the protesters on the ground and load four into their vehicles," he said. "I saw them set fire to seven tents in Tahrir Square."
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