“Hell could be such a place – a place of suffering and death.” This “Hell” is now also known as the square at the heart of an uprising in Iraq.

Tahrir Square, Baghdad, has been the centre for month-long protests. Deadly clashes between protesters and government security forces have been arduous and constant since October 2019, with thousands of people living in a tent village of Tahrir Square. It’s reported that there have been over 700 civilians killed with over 30,000 injured. 

The protests started on the back of corruption, unemployment and inefficient public services within the government. Overall, Iraq produces more oil than the United Arab Emirates and since the US occupation in 2003-2011, the country has seen mighty overlords from various countries meddling with finances, which has meant money hasn’t been distributed into where it was deemed to originally go. 

Fascinated by the statues in Mosul, a series of 2000 year old statues situated in Iraq that were destroyed by Isis militants in 2015, Janne Korkko became well educated about what was going on across the country. A photo-journalist by trade, Korkko first visited Iraq in 2016 and has since returned four times over the past three years. After making an important decision to visit in 2019, Korkko bravely integrated himself into the camps at Tahrir square. “I have a very deep desire to see and understand the gravity of the situation. I have lived, eaten, slept and shared both happy and sad moments. I have felt what it means to live without rights, a home, without money, without power, with disabilities, to be blind. I was there and listened. Despair is the thing that comes to mind first of all. People want fundamental rights, and that’s why people of all ages stay on the square. Protests have become a duty for all ages.”

A young protester named Muhammad Firas (18) He suffers from leukemia. He founded the organization, which seeks to support and help the young people in the same situation. He is a highly regarded young man. His treatments have been suspended due to the Corona Epidemic, and the future looks very uncertain. A young man without a job and wants a change.

First aid tents work night and day because there are sometimes really a lot of wounded. The man was wounded by a bullet hitting his head. The operation is performed without pain relief, like so many others. The wounded bites the gauze roll to relieve pain. The doctor needs light because there are not enough lights.

Amjad Al-Harbi (28) is a photojournalist. He lost his leg in a bomb attack in 2016 in Mosul. He has been following developments since the autumn. Amjad says: We need a better future. The situation is appalling, people have nothing. Government forces, are monstrous butchers and terrorists. We are just civilians who need fundamental rights. I’ve lost a lot because of Iraq, the compensation is the sacrifice of uncertainty.

Korkko talks about how the protests are relatively peaceful and a place to remember the lives lost during the day time. “Near the square there is a front line. Tuk-tuk vehicles are transporting the wounded to first aid tents. I have lived and made friends with amazing people out there such as students who left their school, University, and college. They have a deep belief in their Revolution.” At night, the protests take a turn and local youths from nearby cities come out to protest in a more destructible manner. “Guns sound at night on the streets, people are distressed. Human ignorance and fears are truly present. Frustration and fatigue are sensed in people’s faces and conversations. Bullets are removed from the wounded without proper pain relief or hygiene. Doctors, nurses and assistants are tired of the enormous workload.”

“We Give You Our Life And Blood” is a powerful term that was commonly used by protesters to describe their feelings towards their country. 

Demonstrations in Baghdad continue to be active. intentionally lit campfires burn on the street leading to the river. .©Janne Körkkö / LUZ

Demonstrations in Baghdad continue to be active. intentionally lit campfires burn on the street leading to the river.

A bullet / shot hit resulting holes at each point of the lower limbs. The hits severely damaged the protester.

Bagda demonstrations. Demonstrators spending time in tent in Tahrir-square.

A young protester named Hakeem (11) stands on the street without shoes. He is obsessed with the Iraqi flag and goggles. An alarming number of young children have died in clashes. They also take easy risks and are fanatical.

A protester named Hamal (21) rests behind a concrete pillar. He has collected tear gas grenades in the canister, to turn them off quickly. The gas burns the skin and eyes.

Demonstrations in Baghdad. The boy loads marbles into the catapult in the front line. The atmosphere is very tense and expectant. The protesters are waiting for a counterattack by government forces. No one is sure from which direction they are coming. The men are watching the side streets intently in the background.

See more of Janne’s work Here.

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