Iraqis occupy Baghdad’s central square to mark anniversary of 2019 anti-corruption protest

Demonstrators face security forces during an anti-government protest in Baghdad, Iraq May 25, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Despite tight security measures hundreds of Iraqis gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square on Saturday to mark the anniversary of anti-government unrest that erupted in 2019, amid a prolonged political deadlock in the country.

Massive security personnel deployed checkpoints across the city to prevent the scenes of violence and escalating.

With concerns about the risk of street violence, the government closed off bridges and squares and erected walls across some of the bridges leading to the fortified Green Zone that houses government headquarters and foreign embassies.

Protesters waved the Iraqi flag and chanted “we want to overthrow the regime, according to Reuters.

“We took part in today’s peaceful protests because we want our demands to be met… we want security, jobs, and our simple rights … we are not here to fight or shed blood,” said Laith, a young protester from Baghdad.

A few meters from the square, security forces fired teargas to disperse stone-throwing protesters who had tried to tear down a wall blocking the Republic Bridge leading across the Tigris to the Green Zone, according to a Reuters reporter who witnessed the incident.

A military statement said some “infiltrated elements” were assaulting security forces using Molotov cocktails and hunting rifles.

In 2019, protests erupted against then prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government with demonstrators demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty.

More than 560 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also members of the security forces, were killed in the spate of popular unrest as Iraqi security forces and unidentified gunmen cracked down.

Mahdi quit under pressure from the protests with powerful Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr the biggest winner in an election last October.

Saturday’s gathering raised fears of more unrest and tension among power-hungry politicians that could further delay the formation of a government after Sadr quit politics at the end of August.

(Esta Media Network/Reuters)

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