Fresh clashes between Iraq's security forces and anti-government protesters broke out in Baghdad and a number of Iraqi cities on Friday, despite a call for calm by the country's top Shia leader.
"The biggest responsibility is on the security forces. They must avoid using excessive force with peaceful protesters," said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sist.
In a bid to control the unrest, security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and threw stun grenades in the Iraqi capital, reported Al Jazeera.
According to the Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights, "Since last Sunday, twenty-three people died, 1,077 demonstrators and members of the Iraqi security forces were injured. The majority of them were discharged from hospitals after getting aid."
Earlier on Friday, Rupert Colville, the spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that 269 deaths had been documented between October 1 and November 7 amid the unrest in the country. In addition, at least 8,000 others, including members of the Iraqi security forces, had been injured over the same period.
On Monday, a general strike was declared in the majority of Shiite-populated Iraqi cities and the main highways were blocked.
Nationwide protests in Iraq began in early October and escalated in waves. People are demanding the ouster of the government, as well as economic reforms, better living conditions, social welfare and an end to corruption. As the rallies grew more violent, the government was eventually forced to declare a curfew and cut Internet access in Baghdad and five other regions.
The government has promised a cabinet reshuffle and changes to election laws.
( With inputs from ANI )