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AFP
January 22, 2020

Iraq protester killed as youth keep up pressure on govt

World

AFP
January 22, 2020

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi protester was killed in Baghdad on Tuesday, medics said, as angry young people reignited a three-month-old protest movement by shutting roads to pressure authorities to implement long-awaited reforms.

The demonstrator died after being hit by a tear gas canister on one of the main highways in east Baghdad. Protesters had been trying to shut down the road with burning tyres but clashed with security forces, who fired live rounds and tear gas to break up the crowd.

Eight protesters were also treated for tear gas inhalation, medics said. On Monday, three demonstrators were killed in the capital. Security forces have relied heavily on tear gas to confine protesters to Baghdad´s Tahrir Ssuare, but human rights groups have accused them of improperly firing the canisters directly into crowds at point-blank range, piercing protesters´ skulls and chests.

Anti-government rallies have rocked Iraq since October but had thinned out in recent weeks amid spiralling tensions between Baghdad´s key allies Tehran and Washington.

To regain momentum, protesters had given the government until Monday to address their demands: early elections under a new voting law, an independent prime minister and for corrupt officials to be held accountable.

Since the deadline expired, clusters of young protesters have taken to the streets of Baghdad and across the Shiite-majority south every morning.

On Tuesday, they set up impromptu roadblocks in the southern cities of Amarah, Basra, Diwaniyah and Kut.

In Nasiriyah, central districts were packed with protesters, most of them students carrying Iraqi flags, an AFP correspondent reported.

"With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you Iraq!," they chanted, as fellow protesters blocked the main highways north and south. That left hundreds of goods lorries stuck on the road, including some oil tankers. Tahseen Mohannad, a demonstrator in Nasiriyah, said young people would not be deterred.

"We came out today to support the protests that won't stop despite the procrastination of the state and the political parties when it comes to our just demands," he said.