Tens of thousands of Iraqis have gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square in the largest anti-government demonstration since protests began a month ago.
Flag-waving protesters filled the square and the boulevards leading into it Friday, the Muslim main day of prayer.
The protests, which began a month ago, have increased in size in recent days, with demonstrators defying security forces that have killed scores of people. Security and medical officials say at least 225 people have died in the past month, including five people who died Friday from wounds sustained earlier.
An Iraqi female demonstrator waves an Iraqi flag during an ongoing anti-government protest, in Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 1, 2019.
Some of the protesters Friday directed their anger toward Iran, which has close ties to some political parties in the country.
Shi’ite cleric Ahmed al-Safi made an apparent reference to Iran during a Friday sermon, saying that authorities should not allow “any person or group or biased entity, or any regional or international party” to impose its view on the Iraqi people.
The protests are leaderless, without an organizational structure, and they are not unified. However, they have drawn a wide swath of the population from across the country’s sectarian and ethnic divides, demanding an end to Iraq’s widespread corruption, unemployment, and poor government services.
The demonstrations have been relatively peaceful during the day, though battles often break out after dark between police and protesters.
Amnesty International says security forces have fired military-grade tear gas grenades directly into the crowds in Baghdad, causing large-scale injuries.
A move in Iraq’s parliament to approve a bill to cancel privileges and bonuses for senior politicians, including the president, prime minister and Cabinet ministers, has done little to calm the marchers.