This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
At least 104 people have been killed in less than a week of anti-government protests in Iraq, the country’s Interior Ministry said on October 6.
Spokesman Saad Maan said 6,107 protesters, including more than 1,200 security personnel, have been wounded in the unrest in the capital, Baghdad, and several other cities.
In a news conference aired live on state TV, Maan said eight members of the security forces were among those killed and 51 public buildings and eight political party headquarters had been torched by protesters.
The spontaneous rallies were started on October 1 by young Iraqis demanding jobs, improvements to services, and an end to endemic corruption in the oil-rich country.
The move has expanded into broader protests calling for an end to official corruption and a change of government. Protests soon spiraled into bloody clashes.
On October 4, prominent Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for the government to resign and for early elections.
Security forces have deployed in large numbers in central Baghdad over the past few days, pushing protesters away from Tahrir Square.
Iraq has a population of nearly 40 million people and is the fifth-largest oil producer and exporter worldwide, but overall poverty rates are estimated to be above 20 percent of the population.
Youth unemployment stands at 25 percent, twice the overall rate in the country, which has suffered through decades of war.