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Baghdad cracks down on protests as Iraq democracy falters

Over the weekend, Iraq's government banned protests against the lavish pensions given to lawmakers, in the latest evidence that Iraqi democracy has struggled to take root.

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Protesters chant slogans against the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, Iraq, while security forces stand by in riot gear, Saturday, Aug. 31. In many places, Iraq’s security forces stopped demonstrators from protesting against the parliament’s pension program, which activists say is excessive.

Hadi Mizban/AP

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Many Iraqis are worried that democracy, never firmly rooted here, is sliding away from their country. On Saturday, Iraq’s security forces stopped demonstrators from protesting against the parliament’s pension program, which activists say is excessive. In Baghdad, police closed off several main roads and bridges to stop protesters from reaching designated gathering places.

Despite the prohibition, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in several cities where protest leaders say police beat and arrested some participants. Iraqi officials said they forbade the protests because a large gathering would have been susceptible to a terrorist attack.

“We were expecting big support from the government, because we saw the government on the media in favor of pension reforms, but instead, they beat some of our friends and arrested them. It’s shocking,” says Akeel Ahmad, a protester who could not reach the demonstration due to police checkpoints.

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