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STUDENTS in Iraqi Kurdistan appealed for solidarity actions in support of their demands yesterday as mass protests continued across the city of Slemani despite threats and intimidation from the authorities.
Hundreds blocked the road near the University of Sulaymaniyah on Slemani’s outskirts as they called on those in power to listen to their concerns instead of meting out violence.
Scores were arrested last month as the demonstrations started over poor conditions and a lack of water and basic facilities on campus.
They are also asking for the payment of a stipend that has been stopped by the Kurdistan regional government.
Many told the Morning Star that they had been tortured and electrocuted while in custody and subjected to threats and intimidation.
“We march in peace, but they meet us with guns,” one of the students said.
Philosophy student Hady explained that young people in Kurdistan feel a sense of hopelessness, with “no future, no jobs and no freedom.
“This country is a prison,” he told the Star. “The people here aren’t free. There is no freedom of speech, no life.”
The region is suffering severe electricity shortages and an economic crisis that has left public-sector workers unpaid for months amid accusations of widespread corruption by government officials.
Media organisations were shunned by the protesting students, who refused to speak to outlets that they said were “part of a corrupt system” wedded to the two main political parties, the Barzani family-led Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, run by the Talabani family.
They tried to make their way to the governor’s office, but their route was blocked by heavily armed police. Students have been beaten and tear-gassed during previous demonstrations.
“We will continue to protest until our demands are met and until we win free education,” another student said defiantly.
“We call on students across the world to hold protests in support of our demands.”
Students said that the authorities were dismissive of their demands.
“They remain silent while Turkey is bombing and killing Kurds, so why would they care about us?” one protester asked.
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