Protesters march towards Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone as anti-government protests resume

anti-government protests resume
anti-government protests resume

Iraqi security forces used tear gas and stungrenades to repel demomstrators on Friday morning who had marched towardsgovernment buildings in protest against corruption and economic hardship.

The incident marked a renewal of theanti-government protests after security forces killed about 150 people inconfronting a round of demonstrations at the start of the month.

About 1,000 people, some of whom had campedovernight in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, were marching towards the city'sfortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies,when they were stopped by security forces.

Medical sources told Reuters about 20 peoplehad been treated in hospital for tear gas exposure.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in anaddress on Thursday that people would be free to exercise their right todemonstrate but that violence would not be tolerated.

Abdul Mahdi has struggled to address discontentsince sometimes violent unrest erupted in Baghad on Oct. 1 and spread tosouthern cities. Demonstrators blame corrupt officials and political elites forfailing to improve their lives.

Despite the OPEC member's vast oil wealth, many Iraqis live in poverty, have limited access to clean water, electricity, basic healthcare or decent education as the country tries to recover from years of conflict and economic hardship.

Demonstrations continued for several days atthe beginning of the month despite a violent crackdown by security forces.

A government committee set up by Abdul Mahdisaid on Monday that 149 civilians were killed because security forces usedexcessive force and live fire to quell the protests. It recommended thedismissal and trial of dozens of senior security commanders.

Protesters, who have called on the ruling classto step down, gathered again in several cities on Friday morning after atwo-week hiatus.

Abdul Mahdi said in Thursday's address that agovernment collapse would drag Iraq into further turmoil.

"The resignation of the government todaywithout a constitutional alternative, will lead the country into chaos,"he said.

He also reiterated reforms announced in theaftermath of the protests, including a cabinet reshuffle, opportunities forunemployed youth, a new court to try corrupt officials, as well as the halvingof government salaries, including for top officials.

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