Seven People Killed in Iraqi 'Day of Rage' Demonstrationsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Protesters took to the streets across Iraq on Friday to mark a "Day of Rage,” with thousands flooding Baghdad's Tahrir Square as seven protesters died in clashes with police in two northern cities.
Protesters in the capital were forced to walk to the rally site as security forces imposed a vehicle ban, a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claimed the demonstrations were being organized by al-Qaida insurgents and loyalists of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
Though most of the protests were largely peaceful, clashes between security forces and demonstrators at rallies in the northern city of Mosul and the town of Hawija left seven dead and dozens wounded, while separate rallies in north and west Iraq left a total of eight others injured.
In the capital, troops and police were deployed in force at Tahrir Square, where around 5,000 demonstrators had gathered, and security forces erected concrete blast walls to block entrance to Jumhuriyah bridge, which connects the demonstration site to Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone.
Protesters nevertheless managed to overturn two of the walls, with some of them attempting to cross the bridge. Several lines of anti-riot police quickly blocked it off, however.
An Iraqi MP Sabah al-Saadi attempted to meet with a group of the demonstrators but was met with shouts and jeers upon his arrival, with one protester asking, "Why are MPs taking millions of dinars (thousands of dollars) in salary?"
Friday's rally, in keeping with similar protests across the region, has largely been organized on social networking website Facebook by groups such as "Iraqi Revolution of Rage" and "Change, Liberty and a Real Democracy."
Most of the protesters at the square, which shares the name of the central Cairo site where Egyptians rallied to overthrow president Hosni Mubarak, were young men, with some holding placards that read, "No silence, we must speak.”
More protesters were streaming into the area on the banks of the Tigris river, forced to walk after authorities belatedly imposed a vehicle ban on Baghdad and several other Iraqi cities.
The vehicle ban was criticized by press watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which noted that the rules meant television channels would not be able to station their satellite trucks near the protests and thus not be able to carry live broadcasts of the demonstrations.
Similar curfews were also put in place in the central cities of Samarra, Tikrit and Baquba, and the western city of Ramadi.
Around 3,000 demonstrators gathered in the port city of Basra, followed by the announcement that the provincial governor had resigned, while hundreds chanted, "Liar, liar, Maliki!" in separate rallies in the southern cities of Nasiriyah, Kut and Karbala.
The protesters in Nasiriyah also shouted, "What happened to the promises, what happened to the services, what happened to the jobs?" while demonstrators in Kut chanted, "Saddam, Saddam, Nuri al-Maliki!"
The demonstrations come a day after Maliki urged protesters not to participate, citing security concerns and claiming the protest's organizers were Saddam loyalists and al-Qaida insurgents.
Friday's protests, which have been scheduled for several weeks, have been billed by some as Iraq's own "Day of Rage," referring to similar ones in Egypt that eventually led to Mubarak's resignation.
Demonstrations in Iraq, though, have been largely railing against poor public services and high levels of corruption and unemployment.