For weeks, people in Iraq have been taking to the streets for political change. At the weekend, people were killed again. Protesters hold the access roads to the country's main port.

For weeks, people in Iraq have been taking to the streets for political change. At the weekend, people were killed again. Protesters hold the access roads to the country's main port.
For political change: Iraqis have been taking to the streets for weeks

In clashes between anti-government protesters and the police in Baghdad, there have been more deaths. Two demonstrators had been killed on the weekend, said emergency services AFP. Iraq has formed a protest against the government in early October. Since then, more than 250 people have been killed in the protests.

Tear gas against protesters

The demonstrators gathered again in Tahrir Square. On adjacent bridges that lead across the Tigris into the heavily secured green zone with its government buildings and foreign embassies, security forces were violent against the government opponents. They tried to force the crowd back with tear gas, and the demonstrators retreated behind barricades. Apart from the two fatalities, there were dozens injured, according to rescue workers.
Iraqi protests in Baghdad (Reuters / K. Al-Mousily)
Dead and injured: security forces in Baghdad use tear gas grenades
According to security sources and rescue workers, several demonstrators were killed by tear gas grenades fired by the security forces. These are much more dangerous than conventional tear gas grenades and can penetrate according to the human rights organization Amnesty International skull.

Government critics occupy a major port

At least 120 people were injured in protests around the port in Umm Kasr on Saturday. The security forces also used tear gas and live ammunition against the demonstrators who have been blocking the port in the south of the country for days, the independent Iraqi High Commissioner for Human Rights reported. Dozens of ships were prevented from unloading their goods. Umm Kasr is Iraq's main access to the sea.
Iraqi protests at Umm Qasr harbor (Reuters / E-al-Sudani)
Port Umm Kasr: Blockade of an economic factor
A parliamentary commission called on protesters to end the blockade of the only deep-water port in Iraq. The ports of the country are of great importance to the economy. Eyewitnesses reported that the security forces attacked around 1,000 demonstrators blocking the port's gates. The sitting blockade near the southern Iraqi city of Basra is part of the mass protests against the government.

Chaos on the streets

The protests have largely brought public life to a standstill. In Baghdad, as well as in cities in the south of the country, schools and public administrations were closed for the first time, according to journalists from the news agency AFP. Protesters also paralyzed traffic with street blockades. Sunday is the first day of the working week in the predominantly Muslim country.
Iraq l protests at Umm Qasr harbor (Getty Images / AFP / H. Faleh)
Blockade at Umm Kasr harbor: Protesters paralyze ship unloading
In Baghdad, young Iraqis parked cars on the main roads. The police watched the situation, but did not intervene. Demonstrators blocked roads and bridges in the city of Kut in the east of the country. "We have decided to cut off the road links as a message to the government that we will continue to protest until corrupt people and thieves are expelled and the regime falls," said Tahseen Nasser, a 25-year-old protester.
Students took part in sit-ins at their schools. The country's Teachers' Union extended the strike it had begun last week. The engineering, medical and bar associations also support the protests.

Government announces reforms

The protest movement is now turning against the entire political and religious leadership and calling for the "overthrow of the regime". Students, trade unions and non-governmental organizations have joined the protest.
Iraq protests in Baghdad (Getty Images / AFP)
Thousands on the street: Saturday protests in the center of Baghdad
The government's reforms and plans for an early parliamentary election did not satisfy the demonstrators. "We have had elections for 16 years and we have not got anything," said 30-year-old demonstrator Haidar. Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced that he would resign as soon as a replacement was found. The new electoral law will be submitted to Parliament next week. But the protesters warn against being satisfied with "fake reforms".

"Listening to the Iraqis"

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Iraqi government to engage in dialogue with the demonstrators. It should "listen to the legitimate demands of the Iraqis," said Pompeo in Washington. The government of Prime Minister Abdel Mahdi accused Pompeo of lacking "sufficient credibility" in her investigation into violence at the protests. Iraqis have a right to "genuine accountability and justice." The US Secretary of State called on all sides to renounce violence.
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