Thousands of Iraqi women take to streets, defy Shia cleric

Thousands of women gathered onto the street across the country in Iraq, defying a call by the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to separate men and women during protests.

On Thursday, most of the anti-government protesters wore pink scarves and chanted “all of them means all of them”, and “those are you daughters, homeland”.

“We are marching to condemn the statements made by some clerics that degrade women’s dignity,” a university student told media.

“We are the revolution. We are half of the society and we will not allow anyone to marginalize us”, she added.

On February 8, taking to the Twitter, Iraqi female activists called for the march through social media after al-Sadr tweeted that it was immoral for men and women to mix during the protests.

He took to Twitter again before Thursday’s march to say that the protests “are full of nudity, promiscuity, drunkenness, immorality and debauchery”.

Iraq is a young country – some 60 per cent of its population is under 25 years old – and despite its oil wealth, it is still a wreck. In Baghdad, new steel skyscrapers are rising as bank headquarters, but the streets below are crumbling.

Last year, in December, thousands of protesters blocked roads and bridges in southern Iraq and condemned Iranian influence and political leaders who have missed another deadline to agree on a new prime minister.

Earlier, an IHCHR statement said that the demonstrators in Wasit Province burned the Islamic Dawa Party headquarters and stormed the house of the governor in the province, while in the southern province of Dhi Qar, protesters burned the provincial government building.

For Iraqis protesting since October 1, the system installed by the United States after it led a coalition to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 has become dominated by Iran and is beyond reform.

Since 2003, elections have used a complicated mix of proportional representation and list voting that favours major parties and the heads of lists.

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