Prominent cleric condemns use of “excessive force” to disperse protests in Iraq

Protesters in Baghdad. Photograph: Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

Baghdad ( – Prominent Iraqi cleric Ammar al-Hakim has called on the government to meet the “legitimate demands” of peaceful demonstrators, reiterating his condemnation of the use of excessive force to disperse protests.

“Each citizen has the constitutional right to peacefully protest and claim his rights,” al-Hakim said as he separately met with Chinese and French ambassadors to Iraq Zhang Tao and Bruno Aubert respectively on Tuesday.

The prominent cleric called on the government and parliament to take “urgent steps” to carry out comprehensive reforms in the country.

He also expressed sorrow for the fall of victims among peaceful protesters, urging an immediate action to stop the use of excessive force to quell demonstrations.

Earlier on Monday, the Iraqi military said that some of its troops used “excessive force” to disperse anti-government protests, which have been hitting Iraq for a week.

“Excessive force outside the rules of engagement was used and we have begun to hold accountable those commanding officers who carried out these wrong acts,” the military said in a statement.

The acknowledgement came as social media was flooded with videos of Iraqi troops opening fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Iraqis have been taking to the streets since last Tuesday in mass protests against government corruption, high unemployment, and the dire state of public services like water and electricity.

Around 110 people have been killed in the week of violence including eight members of the security forces, according to government figures. More than 6,000 people have been injured.

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