Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators have gathered in recent days in Baghdad's Tahrir Square and across southern Iraq, shutting down markets, factories, schools and universities in protest of the political system in place since the 2003 US -led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
The demonstrations in Iraq, like those in Lebanon and other countries, are fueled by anger at corruption, economic stagnation and poor public services. A broader crackdown on the protests "would backfire on them in a massive way". Over 250 have been killed since protests began last month. On October 2, fresh demonstrations broke out in downtown Baghdad.
The national teachers' syndicate shut down schools across the country, and other trade unions later joined in. The engineering, doctors and lawyers syndicates have all backed the protests.
Cyber security NGO NetBlocks said Tuesday's blackout is "the most severe telecommunication restriction" imposed by Iraqi authorities since 1 October. They appeared to be borrowing a tactic from Lebanon, where similar anti-government demonstrations have been underway since October 17, and have repeatedly blocked major roads in order to ramp up pressure on authorities.
He met with senior judicial and security officials at the Federal Police Headquarters late Monday to discuss how to restore stability while preserving the right to protest and to protect private property, a government statement said. He said the family has received no word of her whereabouts since she vanished four days ago. "Tuktuks serve as ambulances, ferrying injured protesters from the front lines". Protesters have also taken over a large tower in the square that was abandoned after it was damaged in the war.
Abdel Mahdi has announced hiring drives and increased social welfare, while President Barham Saleh has proposed early elections after a new voting law is agreed. But protesters say that is not enough and the entire political class needs to go.
Operations at Iraq's main Gulf port of Umm Qasr, which receives the bulk of the country's grain, vegetable oil and sugar imports, have been at a complete standstill since Wednesday.
A source at the port told AFP that around a dozen ships, after waiting to unload their cargo, had pulled away to take their goods elsewhere on Saturday.
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Under ex-dictator Saddam Hussein, rallies that were not exuberantly supporting him or his Baathist government were banned.
The uprising in Iraq, and similar anti-government protests in Lebanon, pose a threat to key Iranian allies at a time when Tehran is under mounting pressure from US sanctions.
"Iraq's civil society which was undermined by decades of Baathi authoritarianism and sectarianism is recovering", wrote Harith Hasan, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center.
Medical sources said at least one person was killed and a further 91 wounded in Baghdad as ongoing protests turned violent.
Young protesters have spilt over from Tahrir onto two main bridges leading to the western bank of the Tigris. "He was 20", said Wissam Shaker.
"Why are they killing their own countrymen for another country?"
Amnesty International has accused Iraqi forces of using two types of military-grade tear gas canisters that have pierced protesters' skulls and lungs. But protesters vowed to press on regardless.
The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights also said two people were killed and 23 wounded in clashes in the southern city of Nasiriyah.