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Iraqi communists slam state violence as protest death toll rises to 42

IRAQI communists have denounced “acts of repression and violence” against protesters demanding jobs, better public services and an end to corruption, as the death toll from this week’s demonstrations rose to 42.

The Communist Party of Iraq’s political committee said that the unrest exploding in cities across the country was “a warning to the government that is responsible for the tragic situation and the dire living conditions of citizens.”

It called for fundamental reforms including an end to the sectarian “power-sharing quota” system of government, which “does not lead to any solutions but rather perpetuates and exacerbates crises.”

The communists also pressed for a commission of inquiry to probe the violence, an immediate order to security forces to “stop pursuing the wounded into hospital” and for Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and the head of the army to be summoned to an extraordinary session of parliament to explain themselves.

Party members would continue to participate in the protests and would strive to ensure that they stayed peaceful despite state violence, it said.

Mr Abdul-Mahdi called on protesters yesterday to go home, saying that the government had listened to their “legitimate demands,” but he inflamed anger by describing the state violence that has killed scores as “bitter medicine” that was “inevitable.” 

He said he would not make “empty promises” but added that the government would work towards a basic income law.

Internet access has been shut off but was briefly restored before his speech, before being shut off again as news and reports of new protests began to spread.

But demonstrators continued to gather in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square despite the call — with police firing live bullets into the crowds. 

And protesters in the south-eastern city of Nasiriyah, which has seen the worst violence with 24 protesters and a police officer killed, vowed that they would not give up.

“If the government is not dissolved, we will avenge our martyrs,” an unemployed 32-year-old named Hamid said.

Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani slammed the government and its political rivals for failing to “fulfil the people’s demand — to fight corruption.”

He called on the government and the protesters to back down “before it is too late” and proposed handing the issue of tackling corruption to a committee of technocrats.

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