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The New Arab

New wave of mass protests sweeps southern Iraq

Security forces stand guard during a demonstration against unemployment in the capital Baghdad's Tahrir Square

Date of publication: 28 July, 2018

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Protest movements across Iraq's southern provinces have united and vowed to continue until demands to end corruption and other social ills have been fulfilled.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Baghdad and cities across southern Iraq on Friday as protests against corruption, social ills and political leadership continue to unite angry Iraqis across the country.  

Surrounded by a cordon of anti-riot personnel equipped with electric batons, protestors in Baghdad's Tahrir Square accused leaders of being "thieves" and "corrupt", AFP journalists said.  

Several hundred people shouted "No to corruption!" and "Iran out!".

Demonstrators across Iraq's provinces also announced they had formed a joint committee in order to unite their objectives further, despite government efforts to disrupt the snowballing protests.

A member of the committee from southern Iraq's Dhi Qar governorate told The New Arab: "The Iraqi demonstrations that began and have since expanded their reach will not end until our legitimate demands have been fulfilled."

Fourteen people have been killed in nearly three weeks of unrest as demonstrators have rallied against power shortages, unemployment, a lack of clean water and state mismanagement.

Adding to tensions, the country still awaits the results of a sluggish partial recount of May 12 elections, while political factions jostle to cobble together a coalition under the watchful eyes of regional powers including Tehran.  

In oil-rich Basra, the southern port city where the protests began on July 8, several thousand demonstrated in front of the governorate.  

"We live in catastrophic conditions - we need food and water," said 33-year-old history graduate and labourer Hassan Hantuch, one of the protestors.   

"No to corruption, yes to change!" proclaimed banners held up by protestors in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq, an AFP correspondent said.  

Protests also took place in Najaf and Maysan provinces, south of Baghdad, on Friday.

A spokesman for Iraq's highest Shia authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the outgoing government to meet protestors' demands.  

He also called for the formation of a new government "as soon as possible with effective, competent and transparent people".  

Agencies contributed to this report.

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