Strikes resume in Iraq to bolster anti-regime protests

Baghdad: Iraqis flooded the streets of the capital and southern cities on Sunday in a general strike that bolstered the weeks-long movement demanding a government overhaul. Sit-ins have become the go-to tactic for the rallies that erupted in early October in rage over corruption, a lack of jobs and an out-of-touch political class. They have resisted efforts by security forces to snuff them out and on Sunday, thousands came out across the country after activists called for a general strike.

In the southern hotspots of Kut, Najaf, Diwaniyah and Nasiriyah, schools and government offices were shut as swelling crowds hit the streets. Protesters cut roads in the oil-rich port city of Basra by burning tyres and in Hillah, south of Baghdad, students and other activists massed in front of the provincial headquarters.

“We’ll keep up our protest and general strike with all Iraqis until we force the government to resign,” said Hassaan al-Tufan, a lawyer and activist. In Baghdad hundreds of students skipped class to gather in Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the beating heart of the protest movement.

“No politics, no parties, this is a student awakening!” read one banner carried by young Iraqis with rucksacks. They waved the Iraqi tricolour, marching north from Tahrir to the nearby Khallani Square. Security forces had pulled back from their positions along that street early Saturday and demonstrators spilled out into those neighbourhoods and onto the nearby Al-Sinek bridge.

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