Protests against Iraq‘s government and the wider political system have pulsated in different parts of the country this week as long-standing grievances over a stuttering economy and official corruption prompted thousands to take to the streets.
Those rallying accuse the political class of failing to provide necessary services, essential infrastructure and employment opportunities.
The government has scrambled to quell the demonstrations in a crackdown that has killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds more since Tuesday. Meanwhile, curfews have been declared in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, and a number of southern cities.
Here, protesters in Baghdad – some of whom wished to remain anonymous or only give their first name – share their demands and concerns.
“We will keep going and we won’t back down. It has been 16 years of corruption and injustice. We are not afraid of bullets or the death of martyrs.”
“We want jobs and better public services. We’ve been demanding them for years and the government has never responded.”
“We are not Daesh [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL or ISIS], we are peaceful protesters calling for our simple rights – why they are firing at us?
“They killed the young men. Why? Why?”
“[There’s] no electricity, no jobs, people are dying of starvation, and people are sick.”
“Despite the curfew, we are going out to call for our rights, we want to change the regime. They have arrested our people, they have done things to our people that they did not even do to Daesh – they beat them up and humiliated them while firing live gunfire. What did we do? Are we suicide bombers? We are here to call for our rights.”
“We’ll keep going until the government falls. I’ve got nothing but 250 liras [20 US cents] in my pocket while government officials have millions.”
“Even with the curfew, I swear to God we will not retreat. We are demanding our simplest rights … we sacrifice ourselves for our country, to be sacrificed for Iraq. Our people. Come out, not for yourselves, but for your children.”
“All my brothers and relatives have graduated from universities but are jobless so why I should study if there is no future?”
“If living conditions don’t improve, the protests will come back even worse.”
“The bullets do not scare us. They do not scare Iraqis. This will all come down over their heads.”
“The people are being robbed. The people are now begging on the street. There is no work, you come to protest, they fire at you. Live gunfire.”
“Our demands? We want work, we want work. If they do not want to treat us as Iraqis then tell us we are not Iraqi and we will find other nationalities and migrate to other countries.”
“We heard [Prime Minister] Adel Abdul Mahdi’s speech yesterday. These are promises we’ve been hearing for more than 15 years. They change nothing and they won’t get us off the streets. Either we die or we change the regime.”
“These men don’t represent us. We don’t want parties anymore. We don’t want anyone to speak in our name.”
“This is not a government, it is a bunch of parties and militias who destroyed Iraq.”