Five protesters were killed on Monday in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a rights commission said, bringing the total death toll nationwide since anti-government rallies erupted this month to nearly 240.
Ali Bayati of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission told AFP it was unclear how they had died, but many in Baghdad in recent days have sustained severe trauma wounds from tear gas canisters fired by security forces.
Earlier reports said that at least two anti-government protesters were killed and 105 were wounded in clashes with security forces in central Baghdad on Monday as thousands of students took to the streets in defiance of a government order and tear gas from security forces.
The students skipped classes at several universities and secondary schools in Baghdad and across Iraq’s majority-Shia south on Monday to take part in the protests, despite the government ordering schools and universities to operate normally. It was not clear how many students were among those killed and wounded.
The demonstrations are fueled by anger at corruption, economic stagnation and poor public services.
“It’s a student revolution, no to the government, no to parties!” demonstrators chanted in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests. Protesters have camped out in the central roundabout and volunteers have brought them food, hoping to recreate the revolutionary atmosphere of similar rallies held across the region during and after the 2011 Arab Spring.
Security forces have fired tear gas and stun grenades to keep protesters from crossing a main bridge leading to the Green Zone, home to government offices and embassies.
At least 72 protesters have been killed since nationwide anti-government protests resumed on Friday, after 149 were killed during an earlier wave of protests this month.