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IRAQI women have called for urgent international action to deal with growing violence against protesters amid a rise in attacks by armed militias.
Today the Iraqi Women’s League condemned the “excessive violence committed by the Iraqi security services.”
At least 600 people have been killed since the anti-government uprising started in October.
At a meeting in Baghdad, those gathered called for the United Nations and other international organisations to “hold the Iraqi government to account” for the spiralling violence that has seen scores killed in attacks on protest camps in recent days.
Observers have warned that the withdrawal of support for the uprising by the influential Islamist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has paved the way for the return of the militias; the presence of his supporters previously kept them at bay.
Mr Sadr has urged support for new Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, but members of the protest movement have rejected him as part of the corrupt elite they are fighting to overthrow as they demand sweeping political change.
Women have been subjected to particularly brutal and repressive violence as the situation has deteriorated the Women’s League stated.
A number have been killed by the security services, including leading women’s activists Sarah Taleb, Huda Khutheir, Zahra Karlusy and Jenan Shahmani, who were shot dead during protests.
A police official in Najaf told the Star today that many officers have joined the protests but warned that armed militias are now controlling the country, even taking over police headquarters.
“Police are scared of the militias. They are controlling Iraq. But teachers are protesting, lawyers are protesting, doctors are protesting, workers are protesting because of poverty and corruption,” he said.
Despite the “brutal repression and threats to life,” Iraqi Women’s League spokeswoman Ahlam Kadoom told the Star “the uprising continues to gather strength and support.”
“Marches attract thousands of people and university students remain on strike in eight major cities across Iraq, including the capital Baghdad.” she said.
“Kidnapping and disappearances have become commonplace and this has increased in the last month.
“Militias and other shadowy groups are employing new tactics such as setting fire to tents where activists have been gathering and launching attacks on sit-ins.
“Live ammunition is also being used by these groups, further escalating the threat to life.”
But she urged protesters “to stand fast at the protest squares and continue the peaceful demonstration and not allow agents provocateurs to deflect the course and distort the just and non-violent demands of the demonstrations.”
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