Protests escalate in Iraq as activists call for general strike
In Baghdad, university-age demonstrators blocked major thoroughfares through the city by parking their cars on the roads. Others took part in sit-ins at schools, and the country’s national teachers union extended the strike that began last week.
"We decided to cut the roads as a message to the government that we will keep protesting until the corrupt people and thieves are kicked out and the regime falls," said Tahseen Nasser, a 25-year-old protester.
Read more: Two killed as security forces clash with protesters in Baghdad
"We're not allowing government workers to reach their offices, just those in humanitarian fields," including hospitals and police officers, he added.
The demonstrations have been comparatively peaceful by day, becoming more violent after dark as police use tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue the protestors. More than 250 people were killed in October.
Iraqi protestors are entering a new phase of civil disobedience to make their voices heard, rejecting foreign interference and the sectarian nature of a political system that was introduced after 2003.
“We don’t want anyone interfering in our affairs, not Saudi Arabia, not Turkey, not Iran, not America. It’s our country, our demands are clear,” said protester Ahmed Abu Mariam.
“We want an end to sectarian power-sharing, jobs should not be doled out based on whether you are Sunni or Shia. We want all these parties gone and replaced with a presidential system,” 22-year-old law student Abdulrahman Saad told Reuters.
The protests have spread across the country, with demonstrations continuing in Hillah, Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah and the holy city of Karbala.
The oil-rich port of Basra saw public schools shut for the first time, since the movement erupted last month. The city saw renewed demonstrations in front of the port of Umm Qasr, with activists blocking roads and preventing the passage of industrial vehicles.
An Iraqi security official told The New Arab that activist Saba Al-Mahdawi was kidnapped as she returned from the demonstrations to her home in an unmarked car.
Activists have been especially targeted since the beginning of the protests. Observers saying that the tactics are meant to intimidate and put pressure on activists and bloggers to stop supporting the demonstrations.