February 19, 2011 / 6:26 PM / 7 years ago

Iraqis protest in Kurdish region, capital

<p>Iraqi Kurds protest to demand the ouster of the local government and better basic services in Sulaimaniya, 260 km (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, February 19, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer</p>

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Hundreds of people rallied for political reforms in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Saturday while demonstrators in Baghdad protested demanding better rights for widows and orphans.

Protests have become routine as Iraqis inspired by demonstrations across the Arab world press their demands for an end to corruption, or to ease electricity and food shortages.

In the northern city of Sulaimaniya, hundreds of people gathered downtown to demand an apology from the government for the deaths of two people at a demonstration two days ago.

A medical source said 12 people, including a policeman, were wounded in clashes between protesters and security forces.

“Their injuries vary. Some were hurt by stones and some were injured by sticks,” the source said.

A witness at the scene said two protesters were wounded.

Two people were killed and dozens wounded on Thursday when protesters looking to oust the local government and seeking better services rallied at the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which is headed by Kurdish president Masoud Barzani.

Security forces swarmed the streets of Sulaimaniya after Thursday’s incident. Barzani called on the government to open an investigation into the incident.

In a separate protest at Sulaimaniya University on Saturday, hundreds of students condemned the KDP and called for political reforms and justice.

Unlike anti-government uprisings across the region, protests in Iraq have been scattered and demonstrators have usually not demanded the overthrow of their elected government established two months ago, although some have voiced direct anger at Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

In Iraq’s capital Baghdad, more than 1,000 women and children took to the streets and called for the government to provide better care for the war-torn state’s orphans and widows.

“Raise your voice and call for your rights,” many chanted.

“I ask Maliki’s government to pay more attention to those poor orphans who lost their fathers and mothers for the sake of this country,” said Raghad Mahmoud, who demonstrated alongside her nephew, who lost his father in a car bomb in 2008.

“We live in a rich country that turns a blind eye toward its orphans. Orphans in Iraq have the right to a decent life, but this does not exist,” she said.

The demonstration, watched over by soldiers and police, was peaceful and lasted an hour in Baghdad’s Mansour district.

Reporting by Shamal Aqrawi in Arbil and Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; Writing by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Maria Golovnina

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