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10/30/2019 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – Yesterday a group of masked gunmen opened fire on a group of Iraqi protesters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing 18, though unofficial reports say the number could be much higher. This could be a major turning-point because of the city’s status as a major pilgrimage site.

Nation-wide protests have been ongoing this month, morphing from dissatisfaction with the government’s decision to remove Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi as commander of national counterterrorism forces, to broader problems with corruption in the government, unemployment, and lack of municipal services.

At least 240 people have been killed since the protests began according to Associated Press. Despite the nation’s wealth from oil, citizens complain of crumbling infrastructure, wide-spread power outages, and lack of opportunity. With 60% of the nation’s population being under 25 years of age, this is an especially salient problem for young students who feel that they have nothing to work toward.

The protesters seem to be taking aim at sectarianism in their government as well. Many young people, regardless of their religious affiliation, were encouraged by a visit from the Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, to a hospital in Baghdad on October 28th.

I was very impressed by these young people,” the cardinal told AsiaNews. “Among them are some Christians, but most are Muslim, and [they] were happy to meet me. They thanked me for the visit. [Young people] are against a sectarian culture and want respect for human rights. Despite the deaths, wounded and violence, they are ready to continue. I told them that I am praying for them.”

Some secondary schools and universities have gone on strike as students and professors alike take to the streets despite orders from the government to operate as normal. A curfew from midnight to 6 o’clock in the morning has been instituted in Baghdad as well, but the threats and violence have not deterred thousands of people from continuing to demonstrate in hopes to create better lives for themselves.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].