Iraqi protesters rallied and many schools stayed closed yesterday as the U.N. stepped up pressure on the government to agree to a raft of reforms. While security forces again faced off with activists around Baghdad's Tahrir (Liberation) Square, teachers and students went on strike across much of the Shiite-majority south.
The U.N. has proposed a reform plan that demands an immediate end to the violence, as well as a host of reform measures. The U.N.'s top Iraq representative, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, met with Iraq's top religious authority on Monday, days after influential neighbor Iran brokered a political deal to keep the ruling system in place. Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has backed the U.N. plan but said he feared political forces were not "serious" about enacting the required reforms.
Nearly 280 people were killed since unrest broke out on Oct. 1 over lack of jobs, services, and an infrastructure wrecked by decades of conflict, sanctions, and corruption. The Iraqi government has failed to find a way out of the biggest and most complicated challenge to its rule in years. The unrest has shattered the relative calm that followed the defeat of the Daesh terrorist group in 2017. Since the protests started, they have swiftly escalated into demands for a sweeping overhaul of the entire system. But political parties appear to have rallied around the government of embattled Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.