Dozens of demonstrators were reportedly wounded in Baghdad and other cities on January 20 during anti-government protests in Iraq as the clashes with security forces who were trying to clear blocked roads resumed. According to international media reports, many protesters also threw petrol bombs and stones at police who in return responded with tear gas and stun grenades. Hundreds of protester in southern Iraq reportedly also burned tyres and blocked main roads in several cities, including Nassiriya, Kerbala, and Amara.
The mass protests which has gripped Iraq since October has left approximately 450 people dead. The demonstrators have been demanding an overhaul of political system they see as profoundly corrupt and as keeping most Iraqis in poverty.
According to earlier reports, two protesters on Friday were even killed. Last week as well riot police had reportedly fired tear gas and hurled petrol bombs to disperse the crowd on the important Sinak Bridge after demonstrators attempted to breach cement barriers previously erected by security forces that caused casualties, according to the activists and medical and security officials.
Iraq has been rocked with protests since October 1 which also led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi. After the rallies on the street, the protests have turned violent in the recent days against the widespread corruption and a political system which is seen as beholden to neighbouring Iran. Pro-Iranian factions have touted current Higher Education Minister Qusay al-Suhail for the post of Prime Minister but were opposed by President Barham Saleh.
It the same pro-Iranian fractions who are supporting Assaad al-Aidani, the governor of Basra which is also unpopular among the demonstrators. The protesters reportedly chanted in the streets with 'we don't want Assaad the Iranian'. The protestors have expressed desire for a technocratic premier who has had no involvement in the political system set up after the US-led invasion that toppled the dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
(With inputs from Agencies)