Orphans, widows rally in Baghdad




Hundreds of orphans and widows marched in downtown Baghdad on Saturday, calling on the Iraqi government to take care of them. In the Kurdish north, students demanded an apology over a deadly shooting at a protest earlier this week.

The uprisings sweeping the Middle East have galvanized many in Iraq, one of the rare democracies in the region, to demand better services from their leaders. The demonstrations in the capital and the northern city of Sulaimaniyah were peaceful but five protesters were killed in protests earlier this week.

About 1,500 people rallied in Baghdad in a demonstration organized by non-governmental organizations looking to highlight the plight of some of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens.

The hundreds of thousands of women who lost their husbands in wars over the decades or children who have lost parents are particularly vulnerable.One of those in attendance was 9-year-old Ahmed Nasir, who lost his father in 2006 in a roadside bombing in western Baghdad.

"We have seven children at home," he said. "My mother takes care of us by sewing clothes, and we have no salary."In a statement, the organizations behind the demonstration said they want the government to give each orphan a monthly stipend.

At the University of Sulaimaniyah, in the city of the same name, university students rallied to demand that the president of the Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, apologize for a deadly protest earlier this week in which two people were killed and dozens injured.

On Thursday, hundreds of protesters had demonstrated in front of the offices of Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometres) northeast of Baghdad. They pelted the building with stones, and Kurdish guards on top of the building opened fire.

Officials from the KDP say their guards were forced to defend themselves from the crowd, and Barzani has appealed for calm.The demonstrators were angry with the tight grip with which the two main ruling parties in the Kurdish north dominate the region and its economy.

By Saad Abdul-Kadir (CP)

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