Strikes, student rallies as protests build in Iraq

Baghdad, Oct 29 (AFP/APP): Strikes and student rallies gripped Baghdad and southern Iraq on Tuesday, after thousands in the capital defied an overnight curfew seeking to stamp out deadly anti-government protests.

At least 240 people have died and 8,000 left wounded since demonstrations broke out on October 1 over unemployment and corruption, before evolving into calls for government change.

Overnight, at least one protester was killed in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

The city’s forensics chief told AFP a 24-year-old had been shot in the head, but the governor and security forces said it was “categorically false” anyone had died during the rallies.

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The chaotic protest movement is unprecedented in Iraq, both because of its apparently independent nature and the ensuing violence, with even the government acknowledging “excessive force” has been used to quell demonstrations.

But they have escalated, and trade unions representing teachers, lawyers and dentists have all declared strikes lasting several days.

In Iraq’s southern cities of Hilla, Diwaniyah, Kut and Nasiriyah, most government offices remained closed on Tuesday for lack of staff.

Students gathered in those cities for their third day of demonstrations, ignoring orders by the higher education minister to return to class.

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