middle east

Violent clashes break out in Baghdad, Basra and other Iraqi cities

Day after Tahrir Square, centre of anti-government demonstrations, was cleared by authorities, protesters return to the streets

Anti-government protests broke out into violent clashes in several Iraqi cities on Sunday, including in the capital Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra.

In Basra, police officers and troops fired into the air to disperse around 500 protesters, who had been throwing rocks, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, a few hundred young Iraqis returned to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Sunday for a flash protest, clashing briefly with security forces. Early on Saturday morning, security forces had entered Tahrir Square, the centre of anti-government protests in the capital, to clear the tents and open the previously blocked off roads.

The government said Al-Jamhuriya Bridge, which connects the square with the heavily fortified Green Zone – the location of the Iraqi parliament and numerous diplomatic buildings – had been opened for the first time since it had been shut at the beginning of protests in October 2019.

Some of the protesters had welcomed the clearing of the camp, claiming that it had been infiltrated by elements trying to undermine the demonstrations with violence and disruption, and that clearing it was the only way to root them out.

Iraq is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world but has suffered chronic water and power shortages for decades.

Politicians have warned that it is very unlikely that next June’s elections will go ahead as planned.

Reform of the election law has long been a pillar of the anti-government protesters’ demands, but any reform faces tough resistance from the parliamentary parties, which fear losing the power and influence they have accrued since 2003.

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