Students flood streets in Iraqi cities despite higher education minister's warning that academic life should "stay away" from anti-corruption protests.
Students and schoolchildren hit the streets of Baghdad and southern Iraq on Monday to join escalating calls for the government to quit, defying the education minister, legal threats and even their parents.
“No school, no classes, until the regime collapses!” protestors shouted in Diwaniyah, 180 kilometres (120 miles) south of the capital.
The capital and the country’s south have been rocked by a second wave of rallies over perceived government corruption, unemployment and poor services.
The resulting clashes have often turned deadly, with more than 70 killed since Thursday.
On Monday, Diwaniyah’s union of universities and schools announced a ten-day strike “until the regime falls,” with thousands of students and even professors flooding the streets.
Several local syndicates, including lawyers and engineers, also joined the movement, with picket lines preventing government workers from reaching their offices.
They came out despite higher education minister’s warning on Sunday that academic life should “stay away” from protests, after around a dozen schools and universities in Baghdad had joined sweeping rallies.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi even threatened any further disruption to schools would be met with “severe punishment.”
But young protesters still gathered Monday morning in the southern cities of Nasiriyah, Basra and Kut, where most local government offices were shuttered as workers had not showed up.
In Baghdad, demonstrators gathered on campuses and in Tahrir Square.
“Qusay al-Suhayl said not to come down into the streets. But we say: no nation, no class!” one student protester said in Tahrir.
“All we want is for the government to immediately submit its resignation. Either it resigns, or it gets ousted,” he added.
A group of three students drove up close to the square, unloading kits and cans of Pepsi to treat those affected by tear gas.
“It’s my first day at the protests. I told my mom I’m going to class, but I came here instead!” a girl with curly hair told AFP correspondents.