Iraqis angry at the slow pace of government reforms have intensified their protests, sealing the streets of the capital Baghdad with burning tires and threatening further escalation unless their demands are met.
Protesters blocked roads on Sunday in the capital of Iraq and the sacred city of Najaf a day before its deadline expires for the government to move forward with the promises of reform.
Fearing that Iraq will be caught in the middle of the geopolitical storm amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States after the assassination. of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Iraqi protesters last Monday gave the government a week to announce their reform measures.
A revolt without leaders broke out in Iraq on October 1, with thousands of people who took to the streets of Baghdad and the predominantly Shia in southern Iraq, denouncing corruption, poor services, lack of work and calling for the end of the system politician who prevailed after the 2003 invasion. by the United States
& # 39; Paralyze the roads of Iraq & # 39;
Hundreds of angry young people descended on Sunday in the main protest camp in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, as well as in nearby Tayaran Square, burning tires to block roads and bridges and returning cars and causing traffic jams throughout the city.
In reporting from Babylon, Imran Khan of Al Jazeera said protesters were preparing to "paralyze the roads of Iraq."
"Protesters say they will isolate southern Iraq from the rest of the country by blocking all major roads," he said. "The reason is simple: they say their demands for a new prime minister and new elections have not been met."
Jassim Abbas, a protester, told Al Jazeera that they want "quick elections and an independent candidate who does not belong to the old parties."
"If not, we will climb and block the road and all the entrances of the city and throw out corrupt officials," another protester, Abdul Hamza Khaffaji, told Al Jazeera.
At least 10 people, including police, were injured when security forces attempted to clean the seats with tear gas and protesters responded by throwing stones, medical and security sources told the AFP news agency.
Demonstrations also increased in the cities of Kut, Diwaniyah and Amara, where most government offices, schools and universities have been closed for months.
In the sacred city of Najaf, the young men wrapped in black and white checkered scarves and Iraqi flags lit tires and began a sitting on a main road leading to the capital.
Further south, in the oil-rich port city of Basra, students met in a continuous strike in support of demonstrations elsewhere.
& # 39; The deadline ends tonight & # 39;
Protesters demand early elections based on a reformed voting law, a new prime minister to replace the current provisional prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and for officials deemed corrupt to be held accountable.
Abdul Mahdi resigned almost two months ago, but the political parties have so far failed to agree on a successor and has continued to direct the government as a caretaker.
Protesters have publicly rejected names that circulate as possible replacements and are furious that no other radical reform measures have been implemented.
"We started climbing today because the government did not respond to our demands, particularly by forming an independent government that could save Iraq," said Haydar Kadhim, a protester at the protest point in southern Nasiriyah.
"Last Monday, we gave them a seven-day deadline. That deadline ends tonight," Kadhim told AFP.
A protest partner, 20-year-old university student Mohammad Kareem, said further escalation could occur. "We gave the government a deadline to implement our demands, but it seems it doesn't care about anything," he said.
Imran Khan of Al Jazeera said the protest faces a decisive moment in the coming days. "They need to put enough pressure on the government to comply with their demands," he said.
The protests are the largest and bloodiest grassroots movement in Iraq in decades, with almost 460 people dead and more than 25,000 wounded since October.
Al Jazeera and news agencies