NASSIRIYA, IRAQ — Iraqi security forces used batons, teargas and water canon to break up a gathering in the southern city of Nassiriya, on Saturday as hundreds of protesters rallied around the country against generous pension payments to lawmakers and corruption.
Riot police armed with batons wounded 11 people and detained ten, security sources and witnesses said.
"This is the bomb that was used to attack us, we are peaceful protesters, this is the bomb," said one protester, holding up an object which he claims is a bomb.
The protests marked widespread anger at the monthly payments of thousands of dollars and other benefits to government and parliamentary officials, in a county where many are still struggling to get jobs and basic services.
Distracted by sectarian attacks and political feuding, the government has done little to improve education, housing and other infrastructure.
In the capital Baghdad crowds chanted "oil is for the people, not the thieves", and "no to squandering the wealth" in a square in the east of the capital.
Security forces had closed most bridges connecting the two sides of Baghdad since August 30 evening and blocked demonstrators from reaching their planned protest sites. Security forces also stopped media covering the demonstrations.
Unemployment was officially estimated at 11 percent in 2011 but the International Monetary Fund has said actual levels are likely to be considerably higher, especially among young people.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri-al Maliki said he supported the protesters' demands and would work to "amend the salaries of high-profile officials," in a statement on his website.