Iraqi Protesters Met With Violence

Inspired by demonstrations elsewhere in the Arab world, Iraqi protesters took to the streets of major cities across the country Friday. There was violence in several places — especially in the northern city of Mosul.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In Iraq today, a protest movement known as the Day of Wrath has turned violent. Demonstrators and security forces clashed all over the country. So far, 14 protesters are dead.

NPR's Kelly McEvers was in Baghdad's own Tahrir Square and sent this report.

KELLY McEVERS: At first, it was fun in the square. Young guys who'd walked for hours to get there, kissing the ground and praying. Then, it got angry.

(Soundbite of demonstration)

McEVERS: Much of that anger was directed at what appeared to be a coordinated campaign to prevent today's rally. Yesterday, a citywide curfew was put in place, meaning no one in Baghdad can travel by car. Also, yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suggested protesters might actually be terrorists.

(Soundbite of demonstration)

McEVERS: But many of the protesters here, calling Maliki a liar, were young, unemployed men. They called for jobs, better electricity, an end to corruption.

(Soundbite of chanting)

McEVERS: They repeated a word they heard in other protests around the region: Peaceful, peaceful. But then one group toppled concrete blast walls, blocking a bridge to the fortified Green Zone, where Iraqi officials live and work. Riot police responded. Protesters began throwing rocks.

Okay, so we're just a little bit on the outskirts of what's going on, but it's turned very violent. The sound you hear is people banging on corrugated steel as they are throwing rocks and clashing with riot police.

Elsewhere in Iraq was worse. In the northern city of Mosul, security guards fired on protesters who'd surrounded the local government headquarters, and five were killed. Now, curfews are in place in cities around the country. Protesters vow to continue.

As one protester recently put it to any official who would listen: Just give us one-fourth of what you steal and keep the rest for yourselves. We could be rich just on that.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.

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