Iraqis Join 'Day Of Rage' Anti-Government Protests

February 25, 2011

Bill Chappell

In Iraq, large demonstrations have led to violence and clashes with riot police, as protesters use a "Day of Rage" to demand an end to food shortages and electricity outages that they say have only gotten worse in recent years.

Thousands of protesters hit the streets of Basra Friday, forcing the city's mayor to resign his post. And clashes with security forces have left at least 11 civilians dead, according to the AP.

In a Newscast report from Iraq, Kelly McEvers says:

The most violent protests were in the northern city of Mosul, where demonstrators tried to burn the regional government headquarters, demanding jobs and better services. Guards opened fire.

Protests continued in a dozen cities across the country. In Baghdad, protesters clashed with riot police after knocking down concrete blast walls protecting a bridge to the fortified Green Zone.

In addition to food and electricity, the Iraqi protesters are also agitated by continuing corruption in their country, and a lack of employment opportunities — two complaints that have helped to drive protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

According to the AP, many religious leaders in Iraq's Shiite community tried to discourage their followers from joining demonstrations against the government, which is led by Shiite officials.

And Thursday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki used a television address to urge Iraqis to be patient with his government.

In another move to limit the size of the demonstrations, much of Baghdad was under a near-total ban on road traffic Friday, and security forces have been enforcing curfews in Baghdad and other cities, as well. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.