Beirut - Iraqi security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas in Baghdad Tuesday on anti-government protesters, medical officials said, injuring more than a dozen people.
The Tuesday afternoon rally began peacefully with more than 1,000 people marching into central Tahrir Square, when the police started throwing stun grenades and firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters.
With hundreds of people gathered in the square chanting anti-government slogans, riot policemen began to fire tear gas, scattering the mostly young male protesters, while others fell to the ground wiping their eyes. Some of the protesters responded by throwing stones at security forces, as others waved Iraqi flags above the water cannon.
“We want this government to be changed. This is a government of political parties and militias,” said Fadhel Saber, 21, who was participating in the protest because he is unable to find a job.
The protesters said the government should be changed because of its failure to improve public services and create jobs. Many also held posters of a popular army commander - Iraq’s counterterrorism chief, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab Al Saadi - whose recent dismissal from office some blamed on Iran-backed politicians in the country.
Iraqis largely credit Al Saadi with leading the fight against Daesh.
Medical officials said 15 protesters were hit with rubber bullets while 35 others suffered breathing problems because of the tear gas. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Iraqi health ministry regulations.
Over the past months, protests in different parts of Iraq, including the southern city of Basra, have left scores of people injured.
State-run news agency reported that after the protest took place, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi gave orders for the government to assist university graduates to find jobs.