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An anti-government protester, who was shot with an air rifle by police, is taken to receive first aid during clashes with security forces in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The independent Human Rights Commission has recorded 171 cases of kidnapping, assassination and assaults on journalists by Iraqi security forces.

Since October Iraqis have been engaged in popular protest against a government they view as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests.

“The assassination attempts, kidnapping and assault of demonstrators are a flagrant violation of the human right to life and safety and a restriction on freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful protest, and that the Commission has documented 49 cases and assassination attempts and 72 kidnapping attempts involving demonstrators, activists and bloggers,” Fadel Al Gharawi, a member of the HRC said.

In addition, Al Gharawi said there were 50 documented cases of beatings, threats, inhalation of tear gas, attacking of several satellite news channels, breaking of equipment and preventing media personnel from covering protests.

He implored the Iraqi government to go after unknown assailants and gangs who have attacked protesters with the intention to intimidate and stifle their voices.

“The government should take effective measures to protect the demonstrators, activists and journalists and bring perpetrators to justice,” he added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has defended security forces saying they have never violently suppressed protests.

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Security forces confiscate a Tuk-tuk belonging to protesters. Image Credit: AP

Protesters mocked his defense accusing the prime minister of “lies and deceit”.

Mass protests erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across Iraq’s Shiite-majority south in outrage over lack of jobs, poor services and corruption.

They spiralled into calls for a total government overhaul and are now specifically demanding snap polls, an independent prime minister and the prosecution of anyone implicated in corruption or recent bloodshed.

Protesters tried to ramp up pressure on the government starting a week ago by sealing streets with burning tyres and metal barricades, but riot police responded with force.

They fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse clusters of young demonstrators, and 21 protesters have been killed and hundreds wounded in the last week.

That brought the toll from the last four months of rallies close to 480 dead, according to an AFP rally.