Protesters in Iraq have defied violent attacks to stay on the streets against unemployment, poverty and corruption.
Iraqi security forces killed as many as 67 people during protests on Friday and Saturday of last week.
At least 52 of those were killed on Friday—and more than 6,000 wounded—as security forces and militias shot at protesters with live ammunition.
Demonstrators in the capital city Baghdad had tried to storm the Green Zone—the heavily fortified area that houses government buildings and is shut off to ordinary people.
Protests also took in cities across southern Iraq, where at least 30 demonstrators were killed.
Iraqi president Adil Abdul Mahdi ordered counter-terrorism soldiers onto the streets to quash protests following Friday’s demonstrations.
The Reuters news agency says they were told to “use all necessary measures” to end the protests.
The government also extended a curfew across Baghdad and much of southern Iraq.
Yet hundreds of thousands of people defied the crackdown and took to the streets for a second day of demonstrations.
Soldiers took control of checkpoints in neighbourhoods surrounding Baghdad’s Tahrir Square—the focus for mass rallies in the capital.
Security forces fired tear gas into the crowds in the square during the day—but failed to clear it.
Protesters distributed masks and homemade remedies to protect themselves from the tear gas. Others handed out food and water.
In the southern city of Nasiriya—where protesters have torched government buildings—soldiers broke up demonstrations with beatings and arrests.
And in Basra police said protesters would be prosecuted under counter-terrorism laws.
The protests were the latest in a wave of mass demonstrations that have swept Iraq since the beginning of October.
Some 190 people have been killed since protests began. The revolt has also forced Abdul Mahdi to promise limited reforms.
Yet his promises won’t satisfy the overwhelmingly young demonstrators.
They are raging at the corrupt and sectarian government system imposed on Iraq by the US after it invaded in 2003 and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussain.
The government has become controlled by politicians backed by either the US or Iran, who are vying for control of Iraq and its oil industry.
Meanwhile, despite Iraq’s vast oil revenues, ordinary people suffer high unemployment and low wages.
Around seven million Iraqis live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank, and youth unemployment is at 25 percent.
One protester said, “The government has been stealing from us for 15 years. Saddam went and 1,000 Saddams have been hiding in the Green Zone.”
Another said, “We’re here to bring down the whole government, to weed them all out.
“We want to bring down the regime.”
And another said, simply, “This is not a protest—this is a revolution.”
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