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Anti-Government Protests Escalate in Iraq
Iraqi protesters run from teargas fired by security forces during an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad on October 25. (AFP via Getty Images)

Anti-Government Protests Escalate in Iraq

No end is in sight for the popular protests that have rocked Baghdad and southern Iraq over the past month, and they are expected to reach a new peak on Friday, the Muslim holy day, in what Reuters is describing as “the biggest day of mass anti-government demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein.” The protesters, now including schoolchildren and the elderly, are thronging to the capital’s central Tahrir Square, and to the bridges that lead to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where government headquarters are located. Protesters are venting their anger at a political elite that they consider thoroughly corrupt and at economic hardships that they blame on the government of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. More than 250 people have died in the protests, and thousands have been wounded. Police and hospital sources report more than 50 people wounded by rubber bullets and tear gas overnight and early Friday morning. The human rights watchdog Amnesty International charged on Thursday that anti-riot police were using tear gas canisters to kill rather than disperse demonstrators, shooting extra-heavy canisters at the protesters’ heads at close range, “in multiple cases piercing the victims’ skulls, resulting in gruesome wounds and death.”

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