Thu, 08 Dec 2022

BAGHDAD, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Iraqis gathered Saturday in Baghdad and some Iraqi provinces to mark the third anniversary of anti-corruption protests in 2019 amid intensified security measures.

A source with the Interior Ministry told Xinhua that between 4,000 to 5,000 protesters, the majority of whom were followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, gathered in the morning in Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad and chanted slogans that demand comprehensive reform, hold the corrupt officials accountable, and prosecute protester killers in the months-long 2019 unrest.

Many protesters tried to remove concrete blocks, which were set up earlier by the security forces, to cross the nearby al-Jumhouriyah Bridge to enter the Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi parliament, other main government headquarters, the residences of some top political leaders, and some foreign embassies.

Some protesters threw stones at the security forces, prompting the riot police to fire tear gas and sound bombs to disperse the demonstrators and prevent them from crossing the bridge.

A statement by the media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said 19 security members and nine protesters were injured in the clashes.

A separate JOC statement said some "infiltrated elements" attacked the security forces with stones, Molotov cocktails and hunting rifles.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, more than 2,000 protesters gathered in al-Nisour Square in the western part of the capital, raising Iraqi flags and chanting slogans that demand political reform and the prosecution of protester killers in 2019.

Also in the day, thousands of demonstrators rallied in Dhi Qar, Maysan, Najaf, and Babil provinces in the south of Baghdad to commemorate the anniversary of the 2019 protests. Protesters demanded comprehensive reform, a fight against corruption, better public services, and more job opportunities.

In 2019, mass anti-government protests erupted for months and forced the then prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign. Later, snap parliamentary elections were held on Oct. 10, 2021, during which supporters of prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr emerged as the biggest winners with 73 seats in the Iraqi parliament.

However, al-Sadr withdrew his lawmakers in June after he failed to form a government due to a deep political row with the Coordination Framework (CF), an umbrella group of pro-Iran Shiite parliamentary parties.

The continued disputes among the Shiite parties have led to protests by al-Sadr followers and hampered the formation of a new Iraqi government, making it unable to elect a new president by a two-thirds majority of the 329-seat parliament under the Iraqi constitution.

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