Iraqis mark the killing of protester Safaa Al Saray with emotional pleas

Mr Al Saray became the face of the anti-government movement that demanded the ouster of the entire ruling class

An Iraqi anti-government demonstrator raises the victory sign in Baghdad's landmark Tahrir Square on October 27, 2020 two days after the first anniversary of the start of nationwide mass demonstrations against the authorities. Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets nationwide on Octobe 25 to mark the first anniversary of the 2019 revolt dubbed the "October Revolution", which demanded the ouster of the entire ruling class, accused of ineptitude and corruption. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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Dozens of Iraqis on Wednesday gathered on the streets of Baghdad to mark the first anniversary of killed protester, Safaa Al Saray, a year after the movement rocked the country and forced the former government to resign.

Mr Al Saray became the face of the movement after being shot by a tear gas canister after violent clashes broke out between young Iraqis and security forces.

His brutal killing galvanised the country’s anti-government movement that led to the killing of nearly 600 people and injured thousands more.

Following months of systemic violence, disillusionment and the coronavirus pandemic, the demonstrations came to a halt earlier this year.

But they have recently picked up pace around the capital and southern cities as protesters come back to the streets to reiterate their unmet demands.

"We are out today to remember Safaa Al Saray, he was an icon, someone who we will never forget and will push to fight for our rights," Ahmed Ali, a protester in Baghdad, told The National.

Mr Ali said there are hundreds of people whose lives were taken away from them just because “they want a nation that will serve their best interests”.

“Their sacrifice will remain a living example and a lesson for us and for future generations on how to love your nation,” he said.

Remembering Safaa is an act of recalling all the innocent souls taken for doing nothing other than daring to call for a homeland, Balsam Mustafa, an Iraqi expert, said on Twitter.

A hashtag with Mr Al Saray’s name in Arabic was trending on social media with users tweeting “we will never forget you”.

“He became an icon of the revolution and our meaning for freedom, our leader that will stay in our heart forever,” one user said.

The unrest began on October 1 last year, when thousands of mostly young Iraqis took to the streets to vent their anger at poor public services, high unemployment and foreign interference.

The response of state security forces was brutal and included the use of live ammunition.

During the last three days, over 240 Iraqis were injured as clashes erupted between security forces and protesters who gathered in Baghdad and other southern cities to revive the movement.

Security forces fired water cannon and tear gas at the demonstrators to prevent them from entering Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where the country’s parliament and ministry buildings are located.

"The total casualties in the three days of protest in Baghdad, Karbala and Babel are 242, of those are 46 protesters," Ali Al Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission of Human Rights, told The National.

The high amount of injuries was a result of violence conducted by "saboteurs who used molotov and stones" in response to tear gas, hot water and rubber bullets being fired at them by the Iraqi security forces, he said.