Iraq forces fire tear gas as thou­sands protest in Baghdad

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

Se­cu­rity forces fired tear gas as thou­sands of protesters gath­ered in cen­tral Baghdad on Fri­day and at­tempted to head to the Green Zone, a for­ti­fied area they have breached twice.

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi had called on the de­mon­stra­tors, most of them sup­port­ers of cleric Mo­q­tada al-Sadr, to stay home and se­cu­rity forces de­ployed to block their way to the Green Zone, but the protesters were un­de­terred.

De­mon­stra­tors pushed past se­cu­rity forces at Tahrir Square, breached a barbed wire bar­rier, and at­tempted to pull down slabs of heavy con­crete blast wall block­ing Jumhuriyah Bridge, which leads to­ward the Green Zone, where Iraq's main govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions are lo­cated.

Some protesters, who are call­ing for a new govern­ment, gave olive branches and flow­ers to se­cu­rity per­son­nel at Tahrir, but events quickly es­ca­lated, and the forces fired tear gas in an at­tempt to dis­perse the demon­stra­tion.

"Those with masks, go this way to pick up the in­jured," one pro­tester in­structed those who had brought gas masks.

De­mon­stra­tors forced a gate to the Green Zone and stormed the premier's of­fice last Fri­day be­fore be­ing driven away by se­cu­rity forces.

They used tear gas, wa­ter can­nons, sound bombs and a bar­rage of bul­lets largely fired into the air to dis­perse the protesters and harry them away from the Green Zone, killing at least two peo­ple and in­jur­ing dozens.

Abadi had sought to head off a re­peat this week, call­ing on Thurs­day for protesters to post­pone their demon­stra­tion, as se­cu­rity forces are busy fight­ing to re­take the city of Fallujah from the Is­lamic State group.

Saif, a 23-year-old pro­tester who was re­cover- ing from the ef­fects of tear gas, said he had two broth­ers who were killed fight­ing IS.

"I hope our forces fin­ish the job in Fallujah; I wish them well, of course," Saif said.

"But if those cor­rupt peo­ple in the Green Zone weren't there in the first place, there would be no Daesh and no war against Daesh," he said, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for IS.

De­mon­stra­tors faced lit­tle re­sis­tance when they en­tered the Green Zone and over­ran par­lia­ment in late April, but the pe­riod of tol­er­ance of such ac­tions has ended.

Protests have been held al­most every Fri­day for weeks by peo­ple de­mand­ing the cur­rent govern­ment be re­placed with tech­nocrats.

Abadi pro­posed that mea­sure in Fe­bru­ary, but has faced op­po­si­tion from pow­er­ful par­ties that rely on con­trol of min­istries for pa­tron­age and funds.

Sadr, a Na­jaf-based cleric who led an in­sur­gency against US-led forces, has also de­manded a tech­no­cratic govern­ment, en­cour­ag­ing his sup­port­ers to call for the change.

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