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Iraqi security forces kill protester at university sit-in

Iraq has been rocked by protests since October [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 February, 2020

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Security guards opened fire on protesters in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah, killing one person during a demonstration at a university.
One protester was killed on Monday in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah after university security guards opened fire on demonstrators trying to block the campus entrance, medical sources told AFP.

Desperate to keep up their anti-government movement, which appears to be fading after more than four months, a group of protesters had briefly shut down several campuses in the city.

More than 550 Iraqis have been killed in protest-related violence since the rallies erupted, according to a recent toll by the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

543 people have been killed since October, including 276 in Baghdad alone, the group said, noting 17 members of the security forces are among the overall nationwide death toll.

Iraq's security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas, smoke bombs and even machine gun fire to try to disperse rallies in the capital and Shia-majority south.

The Commission found that many of the wounded or killed were shot by live rounds, but Iraq's government has repeatedly denied its security forces are shooting at the protesters.

Others have died when military-grade tear gas canisters have pierced their skulls or chests, after security forces improperly fired such equipment.

Read also: Iraq mulls deepening military ties with Russia

The Commission did not lay blame on any particular side but protesters themselves have singled out armed factions and the military wings of political parties, alongside the security forces.

The United Nations, for its part, has accused unnamed "militias" for a vast campaign of assassinations, kidnappings and threats.

Meanwhile, Iraq's top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani condemned recent deadly attacks on anti-government demonstrators, chastising security forces for not doing more to prevent violence in protest squares across the country.

 
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Last week, Iraq's interior minister ordered reinforcements to deploy at schools, universities and public offices to ensure they re-open in full after prolonged sit-ins by protesters.

Their rallies demanding the ouster of the entire governing class broke out in October and have mainly relied on civil disobedience tactics to put pressure on authorities, which have however resisted any profound reforms.

As schools and roads reopen, the numbers in protest squares across the country have dwindled but students have sought to maintain momentum with regular marches.

They have opposed the nomination of Mohammad Allawi as Iraq's new premier, slamming the two-time communications minister as too close to the political elite they have been demonstrating against for months.

Allawi has until March 2 to form a government, which will have to be approved by a parliamentary vote.

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