protester killed and dozens wounded during protests in Baghdad and in the south

Protesters gathered in central Baghdad during clashes with security forces in Iraq on Tuesday, November 26, 2019. Khalid Mohammed / AP

A protester was killed in central Baghdad on Tuesday (November 26th) by rubber bullets fired by security forces, according to doctors working in the Iraqi capital. Twenty others were wounded at the same location, not far from Tahrir Square – epicenter of the first spontaneous protest movement in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, which has already killed 350 people in two months.

Tuesday seems to be a turning point: the violence that has lasted for several weeks has spread to cities that have been spared by the protest movement, and now extend into the daytime, where they only happen at night.

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In the historic heart of the capital, a pitched battle opposes protesters squatting behind tin plates or wielding makeshift shields in a cloud of tear gas and police firing from behind concrete walls placed across shopping streets.

The protesters demand the overhaul of the system and their ruling class, which they consider corrupt and incompetent. They are also attacking the big Iranian neighbor, who they say is pulling the strings in Iraq.

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Blocking roads and administrations

These are the first spontaneous demonstrations in this country's second-largest producer of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), since an American invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003.

In Al-Hilla, in the province of Babylone, south of Baghdad, and in Diwaniya, even further south, the rallies carried out for two months have always been massive and in a good-natured atmosphere. But in the night of Monday to Tuesday, the violence broke out for the first time in Al-Hilla, the teargas grenades making sixty wounded, according to doctors. In Diwaniyah, at the forefront of the civil and peaceful disobedience movement, most administrations and all schools have been closed for a month.

On Tuesday, the protesters blocked, by burning tires, access to one of the province's three power plants, bridges and roads leading to Najaf in the west and Samawa in the south. Police are trying to negotiate with them the reopening of these axes, according to a correspondent of Agence France-Presse (AFP).

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In Kerbala, where the violence is particularly intense, protesters and police are throwing Molotov cocktails after another night of clashes, reported another AFP correspondent. So far, the violence took place at night in the holy Shiite city, but on Tuesday, they continued at midday.

In Zi Qar province, the most important roads are cut, including those leading to the three largest oil fields – Garraf, Nassiriya and Soubba – reported an AFP correspondent. Their production (200,000 barrels per day) is however not interrupted. Thirteen police officers protecting Garraf were wounded in clashes, security sources said.

In Kout, Najaf, Al-Amara and Basra, civil disobedience continues to paralyze schools and administrations, without any violence reported so far, reported AFP correspondents on site.

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