A human rights observer said Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition at a crowd of protesters in Nasiriya.
At least three people have been killed during anti-government protests in Iraq after security forces fired live ammunition at crowds of protesters, according to a human rights monitor.
Friday was the deadliest in five days of protests that left five people dead in total in the southern town of Nasiriya, the semi-official Iraqi high commissioner for human rights said.
“Another 47 people were injured but the hospitals are all full of coronavirus patients. We are struggling to find places to treat them, ”a doctor told AFP news agency.
Amnesty International said the injured were treated in parking lots, adding that some were so afraid of being arrested if they went to hospital that they looked for help elsewhere.
A witness reportedly told Amnesty that a protester was shot in the head.
“It must stop now,” Amnesty wrote on Twitter. “The Iraqi government has repeatedly failed to tackle the impunity with which protesters are being killed. When will the bloodshed end?
Security forces were also injured as protesters retaliated over the use of live fire.
Protesters demand the dismissal of Governor Nazem al-Waeli due to a deterioration in public services.
Nasiriya has seen regular protests since late 2019, even after the mass anti-government movement in Iraq declined.
The movement has brought tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly young people, to the streets of the capital, Baghdad, and across the south to denounce government corruption and unemployment.
Ali Akram al-Bayati, spokesperson for the human rights commission, said the protests in Nasiriya never really stopped.
“It has never stopped, it is because the city has been neglected without the new government having kept any of the promises it made,” he said.
Nearly 600 people have been killed in violence linked to protests in Iraq since the end of 2019, including mass violence during demonstrations but also in targeted assassinations.
One of the bloodiest incidents happened in November 2019 in Nasiriya, when more than three dozen protesters were killed on the city’s Zeitun Bridge.
The incident sparked outrage across Iraq and resulted in the resignation of then Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced by Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
The clashes come just a week before Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq from March 5. He is to visit the ancient Mesopotamian site of Ur, a short distance from where the protests took place.