Not far from there, on Al Wathba square, confrontations are almost daily between the police and the demonstrators.
Demonstrators denounced a relentless repression, while since the start of the dispute, in October, several hundred people have been killed in the clashes.
“This morning, they shot us with tear gas and pellet guns. They are targeting the eyes and all sensitive areas to hurt us,” complained a protester.
“They shot me with their pellet gun”
Another points to the use of dangerous weapons by the police. “In America, they use pellet guns to hunt birds. Here, they think we are animals and they chase us with that!”, He indignant. “Look: they shot me with their pellet gun. They think I’m a pigeon!”
The protesters also explain that this repression has increased since the powerful Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr withdrew his support for the protest.
“When Moqtada al-Sadr sent the members of Saraya al-Salam [a large Shiite militia, editor’s note] here, they stayed with us and protected us,” said a protester. “But after Moqtada al-Sadr organized their demonstration [against the United States], they withdrew and sold our cause. They even burned tents here.”
This day of mobilization was particularly important for the demonstrators: it allowed them to reaffirm their request, at a time when Barham Saleh, the Iraqi president, gave parliamentarians until Saturday to choose a new Prime Minister.
Prime Minister’s appointment at the heart of tensions
He warned that, after this deadline, he would assign to this post “the person he (he) deems most acceptable” for his country.
Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned in December, two months after the start of the protest movement demanding deep political reforms and the end of corruption, but he continues to manage current affairs for lack of a successor.
So far, the protesters have turned down the candidates proposed by the Parliament. They plead, however, for a new Prime Minister who is not from traditional political parties.
Friday, the great Ayatollah Ali Sistani, tutelary figure of politics in Iraq, for his part, called for the holding “as soon as possible” of legislative elections to try to get out of the serious crisis in which the country is stuck for four months.