Tensions Escalate between Protesters, Security Forces

By Omar al-Jaffal, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.v

The anti-government movement led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (pictured) along with secular young people seems to be headed for violence and clashes with the Iraqi security forces, especially if Haider al-Abadi’s government fails to meet the protesters’ demands that include appointing a technocrat government and eradicating corruption.

The protesters have started preparing for a potential confrontation with riot police by buying gas masks, especially after security forces used tear gas to disperse protests May 21.

A number of young people posted photos on social media (the pages of which have been taken offline now) showing protesters wearing gas masks in a defiant message to the government after Iraqi riot police used tear gas to disperse a crowd May 27 as protesters tried to break into the Green Zone for the third time. They had already been successful on May 20 and in larger numbers on April 30 when they stormed the parliament building.

Protesters said that the security forces resorted to rubber and live bullets during the protests on May 21, claiming that four people were killed as a result of the security forces' brutality.

Al-Monitor interviewed a young man in his early 20s from Sadr City who had acquired a gas mask. Revealing only his first name, which he said was Haider, he said that he regularly participates in the demonstrations held in Baghdad every Friday.

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