Protesters in Iraq’s capital and the country’s south shut down streets and government offices in a new campaign of civil disobedience yesterday, escalating their month-long movement demanding change to the political system.
Demonstrations broke out on October 1 in outrage over rampant corruption and unemployment in Iraq, but were met with a violent crackdown that left dozens dead.
Since resuming later last month, the protests have swelled again with the support of students and trade unions, who jointly announced a campaign of non-violent resistance yesterday.
In Baghdad, university-age demonstrators parked cars along main thoroughfares to block traffic on the first day of the work week in the Muslim-majority country, as police officers looked on.
Other students took part in sit-ins at their schools, and the national teachers union extended a strike they began last week. The engineering, doctors and lawyers syndicates have all backed the protests.
“We decided to cut the roads as a message to the government that we will keep protesting until the corrupt people and thieves are kicked out and the regime falls,” said Tahseen Nasser, a 25-year-old protester in the eastern city of Kut.
“We’re not allowing government workers to reach their offices, just those in humanitarian fields,” such as hospital staff, he said.
The government has proposed a string of reforms, including a hiring drive, social welfare plans and early elections once a new voting law is passed.
The pledges have had little effect on those in the streets, who have condemned the political class wholesale.