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New wave of protests sweeps Iraqi cities

July 28, 2018

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BAGHDAD: Thousands of people took to the streets of Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq on Friday in the latest protests against corruption, social ills and political leadership.

Surrounded by a cordon of anti-riot personnel equipped with electric batons, protesters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square accused leaders of being “thieves” and “corrupt”, journalists said. Several hundred people shouted “No to corruption!” and “Iran out!”.

Fourteen people have been killed in nearly three weeks of unrest as demonstrators have railed against power shortages, unemployment, a lack of clean water and state mismanagement.

Adding to tensions, the country still awaits the results of a partial recount of May 12 elections, while political factions jostle to cobble together a coalition under the watchful eyes of regional powers including Tehran.

In oil-rich Basra, the southern port city where the protests began on July 8, several thousand demonstrated in front of the governorate.

“We live in catastrophic conditions — we need food and water,” said 33-year-old history graduate and labourer Hassan Hantuch, one of the protesters.

“No to corruption, yes to change!” proclaimed banners held up by protesters in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq, a correspondent said.

Protests also took place Friday in Najaf and Maysan provinces, south of Baghdad.

A spokesman for Iraq’s highest Shiite authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called at midday on the outgoing government to meet protesters’ demands.

He also called for the formation of a new government “as soon as possible with effective, competent and transparent people”.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2018