RFL/RE – Anti-government protesters have seized control of a strategic square and two bridges in central Baghdad as they moved closer toward their goal of seizing the heavily fortified district that is the seat of the Iraqi government.
Security officials and demonstration leaders said an activist involved in the protest movement was shot dead early on November 16 in northwestern Baghdad.
Protesters demanding the government’s resignation have sought to cross the strategic Jumhouriyya and Sinak bridges to get to the fortified Green Zone but have been pushed back by riot police using tear gas and stun grenades.
At least 320 protesters have been killed by security forces over the past month since the protests began over corruption, worsening living conditions, a lack of jobs, and poor basic services.
Iraq has a population of nearly 40 million people and is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer and exporter, but overall poverty rates are estimated at above 20 percent of the population.
Many of the protests, particularly in the southern Shi’ite-majority region, have been directed toward the heavy foreign influence in the country, including that of neighboring Iran, which has supported the Shi’ite militias in Iraq that helped defeat IS.
Baghdad has attempted to balance relations with Iran and the United States, which provides economic and military aid and also supported Iraqi forces in the defeat of IS.