Students flood Iraq streets, defying govt and parents

Baghdad: Students and schoolchildren hit the streets of Baghdad and southern Iraq on Monday to join escalating calls for the government to quit, defying the education minister, legal threats and even their parents.
Swathes of the country have been engulfed by protests this month, with anger over unemployment and accusations of graft evolving into demands for a total political overhaul.
More than 200 people have been killed and 8,000 wounded, the majority protestors, since the movement erupted on October 1.
This week, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi found himself under pressure from a new source: Iraqi students.
“No school, no classes, until the regime collapses!” boycotting students shouted on Monday in Diwaniyah, 180 kilometres south of the capital.
Diwaniyah’s union of universities and schools announced a ten-day strike on Monday “until the regime falls”, with thousands of uniformed pupils and even professors flooding the streets.
They came out despite Higher Education Minister Qusay al Suhail’s warning on Sunday that academic life should “stay away” from protests, after around a dozen schools and universities in Baghdad had joined sweeping rallies.
A spokesman for Abdel Mahdi even threatened that any further disruption to schools would be met with “severe punishment”.
But young protesters still gathered on Monday morning in the southern cities of Nasiriyah, Hillah and Basra.
In Kut, most government offices were shut for lack of staff. In Baghdad, demonstrators gathered on campuses and in Tahrir Square.
“Qusay al Suhail said not to come down into the streets. But we say: No nation, no class!” one student protester said.
“All we want is for the government to immediately submit its resignation. Either it resigns, or it gets ousted.”
About 60 per cent of Iraq’s 40-million-strong population is under the age of 25.
But youth unemployment stands at 25 per cent and one in five people live below the poverty line, despite the vast oil wealth of Opec’s second-largest crude producer. Anger at inequality and accusations that government corruption was fuelling it sparked protests in Baghdad on October 1 that have since attracted growing numbers of young people. — AFP