Protests in Southern Iraq Renew Anti-government Rage

Protesters burned tires and surrounded a police station in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya on Saturday, a Reuters witness said, pressing their demands for sweeping reform despite the prime minister promising to quit.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation on Friday after a call from Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric for the government to step down to end weeks of deadly unrest, Reuters writes.

The unrest, which has killed more than 400 people, mostly demonstrators, amounts to the biggest crisis confronting Iraq since Islamic State insurgents seized vast swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in 2014.

It pits mostly young, disaffected Shi’ite protesters against a Shi’ite-dominated government backed by Iran and accused of squandering Iraq’s oil wealth while infrastructure and living standards deteriorate.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters for nearly two months. Scores of the more than 400 dead have been killed in recent days, particularly in the southern cities of Nassiriya and Najaf.

At a funeral procession for protesters killed this week in Najaf, a Shi’ite holy city, a mourner who declined to give his name said: “This man was protesting holding an Iraqi flag and a flower. He was shot dead. He’s a sacrifice for the nation.”

Iraq’s cabinet approved Abdul Mahdi’s resignation, a statement from his office said on Saturday, but parliament has yet to withdraw its support for the prime minister at a session on Sunday, making it official.

“The government has done all it can to respond to the demands of protesters and enact reforms … and calls the parliament to find solutions (to unrest) in its coming session,” the statement said.

Iraqi protesters have welcomed the resignation but say it is not enough- demanding an overhaul of a political system they say is corrupt and keeps them in poverty and without opportunity.

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