Thousands of students have joined Iraq’s anti-government protests, which are now entering their second month.
The students skipped classes at several universities and secondary schools in Baghdad and across the South of Iraq to take part in the protests, despite the government ordering schools and universities to operate normally.
“It’s a student revolution, no to the government, no to parties!” demonstrators chanted in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests.
“No school, no classes, until the regime collapses!” students chanted in Al Diwaniyah, in southern Iraq.
Security forces have begun cracking down and using live ammunition. More than 270 people have been killed since the protests began on October 1, according to Agence France-Presse, including four protesters who were shot during a protest in Karbala on Monday. Eighteen people were killed during another protest in Karbala last week.
The demonstrations in Iraq, like those in Lebanon and other countries, are fueled by anger at corruption, economic stagnation and poor public services. Despite its vast oil wealth, Iraq suffers from high unemployment and crumbling infrastructure, with frequent power outages that force many to rely on private generators.
Many protesters also see the current regime as under the sway of Iran, and want to install a new government free of foreign influence.
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On October 28, Al Diwaniyah’s union of universities and schools announced a ten-day strike “until the regime falls,” with thousands of students and even professors flooding the streets.
Iraq’s Teachers Union announced also a four-day general strike last week, saying its members will protest peacefully across the country, excluding the Kurdistan region. “If the government does not respond to the legitimate demands of the people, Iraqi teachers will issue stronger decisions,” said Abbas Kadhim Sudani, a representative of the union, in a video statement. Several local syndicates, including lawyers and engineers, also joined the movement, with picket lines preventing government workers from reaching their offices.
The demonstrator’s demands include legal measures against killing protesters, the resignation of the government, and amendment of the constitution and electoral laws.
But Higher Education Minister Qusay al-Suhail has warned academics to avoid protests, according to Agence France-Presse.