IRAQIS CLOSE ROADS IN BID TO BLOCK GOVERNMENT
Electoral law proposed by president but elections could still take months
Protesters in Iraq set up barricades made of barbed wire and burning tyres yesterday as they kept up their pressure on the government to resign after weeks of mass demonstrations.
Demonstrators held up banners that read “Roads closed by order of the people”.
Trade Minister Mohammed Hashim Al Ani said the unloading of rice and food shipments at Umm Qasr was delayed after all streets leading to the port near the southern city of Basra were blocked.
Protesters blocked the roads on Saturday after security forces used live ammunition and tear gas. They also called for a strike that began yesterday.
Since the start of October tens of thousands of people have gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and in cities across southern Iraq to demand the resignation of the government and an end to the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion.
The protests have grown despite an Iraqi official saying last week that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was willing to resign once political leaders agreed on his replacement.
Mr Abdul Mahdi met security officials late on Saturday and stressed the need to uphold peace in the country and ensure the safety of protesters.
A new electoral law proposed by President Barham Salih will be put to politicians this week.
Mr Salih’s office said he met representatives of trade unions and civil organisations and “heard their demands and views on the protest movement”.
However, the process of holding elections and forming a new government could take several months.
Most protesters are young men and women below the age of 30 who grew up in the era that came after long-time dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in the 2003 invasion.
They are angry at the government’s failure to end corruption and provide them with public services and job opportunities.
The protests have been met with violence from security forces and officially recognised Iran-backed militias known as the Haashed Al Shaabi, with more than 250 protesters killed and thousands injured since the rallies began on October 1.
The Iraqi Human Rights Commission said yesterday that Saba Al Mahdawi, a doctor and activist, was kidnapped on Saturday night after treating protesters in Baghdad.
It urged security forces to investigate the matter and other kidnappings in recent weeks.
Dr Al Mahdawi’s mother begged authorities to help bring her daughter home safely in a video posted on social media. She said her daughter was not affiliated to any political group.
Women are always the first targets of extremists during times of protests and conflict, Rasha Al Aqeedi, editor-in-charge of the Irfaa Sawtak news outlet, said on Twitter.
“Intimidating others in hopes of killing the vibe is the goal,” Ms Al Aqeedi said.
She called on the government to do all it can to ensure Dr Al Mahdawi’s safe return.
Protesters are demanding the resignation of the government