World\Middle East

Clashes erupt as thousands of Iraqis protest in Baghdad

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-02-11 22:15

BAGHDAD - Fierce clashes erupted on Saturday in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Saturday when thousands of demonstrators marched at the entrances of the heavily fortified Green Zone protesting over corruption and demanding a change in the election commission.

The protests began before noon when thousands of people, mainly followers of the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, rallied in Tahrir Square on the eastern bank of the Tigris River which bisects Baghdad, demanding a change in the Independent High Electoral Commission, and arguing that the electoral body is under the influence of leading parties.

The protestors also demanded real and comprehensive reform in the political process in order to fight the wide spread corruption in the country.

In the afternoon, the protestors crossed al-Jamhouriyah Bridge to the western bank of the Tigris and marched at the gates of the Green Zone, which houses the main government offices and foreign embassies.

The security forces warned the protestors not to come closer to the gates of the Green Zone, but clashes soon sparked with security forces, who fired tear gas and shot live ammunition in the air to disperse demonstrators.

Sadr followers held several massive rallies last year. In one occasion the protestors broke into part of the Green Zone, including storming the parliament building.

During the past months, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made some reforms which were aimed at confronting the country's economic crisis due to the sharp decrease in oil prices in global markets at the time that the security forces are in full-combat with Islamic State terrorist group in the country.

However, Abadi's reforms, first gained popular support, but with the passing of time the reforms fell short to convince demonstrators who continued their protests and demanded that Abadi be more aggressive against the political parties that benefited from corruption and could reverse the reforms to their own good.

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