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Calm returns after Iraq protests but political crisis remains

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Baghdad, Iraq Oct 08, 2019, 04.45 PM (IST)

Iraq woke up Tuesday from its first quiet night after a week of anti-government protests that left dozens dead and sparked a crisis its president said required a "national dialogue". 

Morning traffic around the city was back to normal, most streets had reopened and an internet blackout in place for most of the past week appeared to ease just hours before parliament was expected to meet. 

His voice sometimes breaking during a televised address, President Barham Saleh appealed for "sons of the same country" to put an end to the "discord" that has reigned since protests erupted one week ago.

They began in Baghdad, with young demonstrators demanding an end to rampant corruption and chronic unemployment but then escalated with calls for a complete overhaul of the political system spreading to the Shiite-dominated south. 

They were unprecedented because of their apparent spontaneity and independence in a deeply politicized society, but have also been exceptionally deadly - with more than 100 people killed and 6,000 wounded since Tuesday.

Saleh said those responsible for the violence were "enemies of the people" and proposed a cabinet reshuffle, more oversight to stamp out corruption, and a "national, all-encompassing and frank dialogue” without “foreign interference.” 

Saleh was not the first to suggest a way out of the political crisis. Embattled Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi and parliament speaker Mohammed Hal-Halbusi have both proposed a laundry list of reforms to address popular grievances. 

But protesters have repeatedly told AFP they had "nothing left to lose", and have scoffed at overtures by political and religious figures.

Story highlights

Iraq woke up Tuesday from its first quiet night after a week of anti-government protests.