Schools shut across southern Iraq in bid to revive protests

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Most schools in southern Iraq were closed yesterday, after teachers announced a general strike in an attempt to boost the protest movement that has rocked the country since October 1.

In recent days, security forces have sought to crack down on rallies, but protesters have kept up the movement with sit-ins across the capital and south.

In the southern city of Kut, hundreds of people streamed into the streets and shut down schools and public offices.

In Hilla, schools were closed for lack of staff and government offices reduced their opening hours.

Most schools were closed too in Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah, two southern cities that have played a major role in the protests.

And in the capital, teenage boys skipped class to face off against security forces in commercial districts around the main protest site of Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

On Monday, protesters had managed to breach the concrete blast walls erected by the security forces to seal Tahrir off from neighbouring Khallani Square.

But yesterday morning, the walls were up again and security personnel positioned behind them fired stun grenades at the young protesters on the other side, who scattered briefly before returning to their posts.

“Our country is dearer to me than my only child,” read one slogan daubed on the street, where the usually bustling mechanics’ shops remained closed.

Iraqi protesters clash with Iraqi security forces at Baghdad’s Khallani square during ongoing anti-government demonstrations. PHOTO: AFP