Mindanao Times

Iraqis step up protests


THOUSANDS took to the streets in Iraq’s capital and across the south Sunday to protest against Iran’s kingmaking influence, as the latest deadline for choosing a new prime minister loomed.

Anti-government rallies have rocked Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since October 1, with demonstrat­ors calling for a complete overhaul of a regime they deem corrupt, inefficien­t and overly beholden to Tehran.

“The revolution continues!” shouted one demonstrat­or at a protest encampment in central Diwaniyah.

Protesters blocked off public buildings one by one in the southern Iraqi city and put up banners reading, “The country is under constructi­on -please excuse the disruption”.

As the clock ticked closer toward Sunday’s midnight deadline for choosing a new premier, the demonstrat­ors stepped up their protests, blocking highways and roads across the south of Iraq with burning tyres.

The deadline for parliament to choose a new prime minister to replace Adel Abdel Mahdi, who quit last month, has already been pushed back twice by President Barham Saleh.

Officials say Iran wants to install Qusay al-Suhail, who served as higher education minister in the government of Abdel Mahdi.

“This is exactly what we oppose -- Iranian control over our country,” said 24-year-old student Houeida, speaking to AFP in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests.

The demonstrat­ors categorica­lly reject Suhail’s candidacy, along with anyone from the wider political establishm­ent that has been in place since dictator Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003.

“Hundreds of martyrs have fallen and they are still not listening to our claims”, said 21-year-old student Mouataz, in Tahrir Square.

“We want a prime minister with integrity, but they bring back a corrupt man in their image whom they will allow to continue robbing us,” he added.

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