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Iraqi students join protests as pressure on gov't swells

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Iraqi students joined anti-government protests in Baghdad on Sunday, ramping up the street pressure on Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi who also faced a sit-in from parliament's largest bloc.

The capital and country's south have been rocked by a second wave of demonstrations since Thursday, with protesters digging in despite tear gas, curfews and violence that has left more than 74 dead.

On Sunday morning, students could be seen joining demonstrations in the capital, with activists saying about a dozen schools and universities had decided to shut their doors and take part in protests en masse.

In the emblematic Tahrir Square, young girls in school uniforms with rucksacks were seen trekking through streets littered with tear gas canisters.

Hundreds of protesters had hunkered down in the square, defying heavy tear gas use overnight and pledging to "weed out" the political class.

"We're here to bring down the whole government — to weed them all out!" one protester said, the Iraqi tricolour wrapped around his head.

The protests are unprecedented in recent Iraqi history for their ire at the entire political class, including Abdel Mahdi, parliament speaker Mohammed Al Halbussi and even traditionally revered religious leaders.

They have also been exceptionally violent, with 157 dead in the first set of rallies and 63 dead in the latest round.

"We don't want a single one of them. Not Halbussi, not Abdel Mahdi. We want to bring down the regime," the protester said.

Women were also seen in larger numbers, including a young nurse who said she was protesting "for the generation that's coming".

“Our generation is psychologically tired, but it’s alright as long as this is for the next one,” she said. 

 

Curfews, arrests 

Renewed protests also flooded the streets of Najaf, Hilla, Karbala and Diwaniyah in the south. 

In the oil-rich port city of Basra, police enforced a strict curfew and said it arrested “saboteurs” who had infiltrated the protesters.

This week’s demonstrations are the sequel to six days of anti-government rallies that erupted October 1.

Sparked by outrage at corruption, unemployment and poor services, they evolved into demands for an overhaul of the political system and a new constitution.

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