These demonstrations continue and have expanded into other cities in the southern provinces and in some areas of the province of Baghdad. All of these protests were peaceful and citizens demanded legitimate demands guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution and international laws.
Most of those who took part in the demonstrations were young and unemployed. In addition daily labourers and the poor joined in, which resulted in the Iraqi government using excessive force to confront demonstrators without any justification.
Demonstrations continued between July 16 and Friday (July 20th) and included large areas of central and southern Iraq.
Protests have also taken place in the Governorate of Qadisiyah in the city of Diwaniyah, Karbala province in the city of Karbala, Najaf province in the city of Najaf, and in the province of Dhi Qar demonstrations took place in the courtyard of Haboubi in the city of Nasiriyah.
Workers at the health department in Dhi Qar also took to the streets to protest the fact they have not received their salaries for the past 7 months. In Babil province demonstrations continued in the city of Hilla, and demonstrations also took place in the Musayyib area and the province of Hamza, Al-Muthanna province.
Demonstrations continued in the city of Samawah as well as al-Khader district, Maysan province, demonstrators gathered in the area al-Masharah of the south of the city of Amarah and stopped traffic for several hours towards the port of Shib on the border with Iran
Iraqi government forces used unjustified excessive force in dealing with peaceful demonstrators
In the Basra governorate, on July 18, government forces used live bullets and sound bombs to disperse demonstrators gathered in the Abi al-Khasib area of Basra province. Government forces also used batons, tear gas and hot water hoses to disperse the demonstrators in front of the Zubayr field in Basra on July 17. The activists in Basra documented video footage of a member of security forces firing live bullets directly at demonstrators. Government forces also fired bullets at demonstrators in the area of Karma Ali.
In Najaf province, July 18, eyewitnesses said the Asaib Ahl al Haq militia (part of the Popular Mobilisation Forces or PMF) fired live ammunition and tear gas at demonstrators.
In the capital Baghdad, on July 17, night demonstrations took place in al Shu’ala city to which government forces responded using live ammunition against the demonstrators. Political activists broadcast a video clip on social media sites showing a civilian shot by government forces.
In Karbala governorate, on July 16, government forces used live bullets to disperse demonstrators in the city of Karbala.
Babil province, July 19, protesters began a peaceful sit-in and erected tents in the area of al Hamzah. Government forces did not allow them to continue the sit-in and demolished the tents and dispersed the sit-in by force.
In Dhi Qar province, July 20, Iraqi security forces again used live bullets to disperse demonstrators.
In Muthanna province, on July 17, in the city of Samawa demonstrators were subjected to an attempt to run them over. Activists documented in a video clip a member of government forces' attempt to hit demonstrators with a military Hummer vehicle that was driving quickly among crowds of protesters. However, the demonstrators managed to escape from the government vehicle.
In al Khader district and in the city of Samawah, government forces used live bullets to disperse the demonstrators on July 16.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Health said that the toll of the number of dead and wounded on July 20, 2018 has reached: two people, one from the province of Najaf and the other from the province of Qadisiyah, in Diwaniyah, the number of injured is 45.
A source from Diwaniyah police said that one of the young demonstrators at the age of 20 threw stones at the headquarters of the Badr militia led by Hadi al-Amiri and then a guard of the headquarters of the Badr militia fired live bullets at the young man, causing serious injury. The man later died in hospital.
In Baghdad, July 20, government forces used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Tahrir square in the middle of the capital. Government forces pursued protesters between the side streets near Tahrir square. Eyewitnesses and journalists who were in Tahrir Square reported that they saw masked men in black clothes sitting on the roof of a building overlooking Tahrir Square who were shooting rubber bullets at demonstrators.
The Human Rights Commission has announced that the death toll of demonstrators has reached 12 people, and injured 199 people, and thus increase the proceeds announced by the government to: 16 dead and 244 wounded, according to official sources.
According to civil activists in the demonstrations, the number of dead and wounded demonstrators since the beginning of the demonstrations on 8 July 2018 until July 19, 2018 has reached: 35 dead and 450 wounded, and we could not confirm these numbers because of the blackout of security and poor communication after the Iraqi government cut off internet supply, and also because of the fear of civilians from the brutality of militias and government forces.
Government forces and the PMF launched campaigns to arrest peaceful protesters in Qadisiya governorate, on July 1. Government forces arrested 22 citizens on the background of participation in the demonstrations. Additionally, government forces also carried out arrests in the province of Basra and the province of Wasit and Dhi Qar without legal arrest warrants and in Maysan province on July 19, arrested 36 people.
The Human Rights Commission announced on July 19 that government forces arrested 540 demonstrators from different southern provinces, and witnesses reported that the number of detainees has reached 600 citizens.
In some of the pictures taken by activists in the demonstrations, groups of militias appeared in civilian clothes, kidnapping demonstrators during the demonstrations and taking them to unknown destinations, knowing that government forces were close to the place of abduction, and activists said that there are night raids by militias to kidnap activists and subject them to torture.
In the province of Najaf government forces arrested 80 people from the demonstrations, and when their families asked about them Government forces replied that they had no information about these detainees, the families of these detainees believed that the militias had arrested them.
On July 17, 2018, the Iraqi judicial authorities issued 52 arrest warrants against demonstrators under Article 342 and charged with attempting to cause riots, breach of security and vandalism of public and private institutions. The arrest warrants included journalists covering the demonstrations, activists, tribal leaders and dignitaries.
Since the demonstrations began in the central and southern provinces of Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has ordered the Security Forces and the PMF to move from Kirkuk to the southern provinces in order to establish security. The head of the energy police in the province of Basra said that nine military regiments arrived in Basra, six regiments of the Iraqi Rapid Intervention Force and three regiments of Iraq Counter Terrorism Force, and the task of these forces is to secure oil fields and the protection of oil installations.
It should be noted that international human rights organisations and illustrated reports have been issued to reveal the involvement of these forces in war crimes against civilians. The PMF had vowed to pursue those who burned its headquarters. Videos broadcast by activists confirm the large number of security forces that arrived in the provinces where demonstrations are taking place.
The Iraqi government has cut the internet service from the southern provinces, making it more difficult to communicate with the demonstrators and delaying the arrival of information. In addition, the weakness of communication encourages government forces and militias to increase the oppression of demonstrators in the absence of censorship and communication.
Demonstrations in the provinces of the center and the south since the beginning of its launch on July 8, 2018 have been peaceful, and raised banners calling for the government to improve the level of services and provide jobs and the remove corrupt officials from government positions.
The United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) issued a statement on July 18, 2018. In the statement, Jan Kubis said the demonstrations were largely peaceful and that the government's response to the demonstrations is exaggerated and without any reason.
The Iraqi security forces, including the PMF, used excessive force against the demonstrators and fired live bullets at the demonstrators directly and deliberately. The injuries were in parts of the body that directly caused death, such as the head and chest, without any justification.
This caused 16 deaths and about 600 injuries according to government statistics on July 16. The killings took place in response to the security forces, militias, party headquarters guards and militias, without the demonstrators having posed any direct or real threat. This is as well as the arrest of demonstrators by government forces and militias, in addition to the disappearance of demonstrators in unknown places and the lack of information about those who arrested demonstrators.
Activists in the demonstrations said that the arrests are due to the exit of citizens in demonstrations and because of the demonstrators burning some of the headquarters of militias or ruling parties, but that the demonstrators had gone out because they felt injustice due to unemployment and poor services.
The Iraqi government has made no effort to find the disappeared protesters, and ensure communication between them and their families or release them, thus the disappeared protesters have become outside the protection of the law and there is no guarantee of their safety and they have lost their full freedom.
The Iraqi government has cut off the internet and thus has caused a reduction in the freedom of individuals to communicate and exchange information so that the government has wanted to spread fear and terror among the people of the provinces where the demonstrations are taking place and to make them feel isolation from the world, and the government did not work to calm the demonstrators or to take real practical steps to improve the lives of citizens.
The Iraqi government has committed a clear violation of the Iraqi constitution, international covenants and laws that affirm the right of the person to express their opinion peacefully. The Iraqi government has committed arbitrary killing and excessive use of force against demonstrators, a crime punishable by national and international laws.
The Iraqi government has also arbitrarily detained and enforced disappearances, thereby limiting the freedom of individuals guaranteed by the Constitution and human rights conventions, in a breach of the Geneva Convention and is therefore a war crime, as well as breaching the International Convent on civil and political rights.
The Iraqi government and the international community are responsible for the crimes against demonstrators
The Iraqi government bears full responsibility for all crimes against demonstrators. It is the responsibility of all countries that train or equip the weapons used by Iraqi security forces and the PMF to suppress demonstrations.
The Iraqi government should prosecute those who committed violations and crimes during demonstrations without discrimination, including Iraqi security forces, to release detainees who have not been found to have committed any act of rioting, to search for the disappeared and to release them from the militias they have kidnapped. The Iraqi government should guarantee the right of citizens to demonstrate and express their opinion in a peaceful manner without harassment, and the Iraqi government should not prevent citizens from communicating via networks and the Internet.
Suppression of demonstrations by force and not allowing citizens to express their suffering and views will inflame anger and increase resentment against the Iraqi government and will lead to further violence.