Football win over Iran gives Iraqis respite from anti-government protests


Thousands of Iraqis on Thursday took a break from weeks of deadly anti-government protests to celebrated their national football team's 2-1 win over Iran in a 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Demonstrators, who were staging a sit-in in central Baghdad, set off fireworks after Alaa Abbas headed Iraq's winner in the second minute of injury time in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

Baghdad's streets were meanwhile packed with fans honking the horns of their cars and waving Iraqi flags and under-fire Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi said the victory had unified Iraqis.

"We hail the performance of the Lions of the Mesopotamia," he said in a statement, using the Iraqi squad's nickname. "This win has unified Iraqis. Citizens and their security forces are celebrating it under Iraq's banner," he added, according to Iraq's official news agency INA.

The match had been moved from Iraq to neighbouring Jordan due to the unrest. The protests started in early October, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament and an overhaul of the country's political system.

At least 319 protesters and security personnel have since died in the demonstrations, mainly in the capital Baghdad and the oil-rich south. Several rights groups have accused the Iraqi security forces of using excessive violence against anti-government demonstrators.    (dpa)

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