Demonstrators gather in Baghdad's Tahrir Square Friday, despite a curfew and security checkpoints around the square.
Demonstrators gather in Baghdad's Tahrir Square Friday, despite a curfew and security checkpoints around the square. Jonathan Blakley/NPR
Stationed in Baghdad, NPR Producer Jonathan Blakley reports on the latest round of protests aimed at the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki:
Demonstrators in Iraq rallied for the second Friday in a row, calling for an end to government corruption, more jobs and better services.
In Baghdad, the main rally was in the center of the capital at Tahrir Square. The rally was loud and colorful, with protesters in the hundreds. But it was notably smaller than last Friday's rally. That one led to clashes with security forces, hundreds of arrests and at least 29 deaths.
Most of the participants today were young people, waving Iraqi flags and plastic flowers. Many were college-age students, dressed in red and black caps and gowns, upset because, they say, they couldn't find work after graduation. Some demonstrators had walked for hours to get to Tahrir Square.
One Iraqi housewife said the protestors would "expose the thieves" — referring to government corruption. She said people would march every Friday until their demands are met.
Security forces won't make that easy. The normally congested streets of Baghdad were eerily quiet Friday after a curfew was imposed. Scores of security forces in riot gear stood at every entry point to Tahrir, making it difficult for demonstrators to find their way in. It seemed that police either equaled or surpassed the number of demonstrators.
Early in the rally, there were unfounded fears that someone had brought a bomb to the rally — but that fear only lasted seconds, and seemed to energize the crowd.