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HRW equates Kurdish forces to thugs

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 8 (UPI) -- Kurdish security forces in Iraq watched as masked assailants brutalized demonstrators last weekend, Human Rights Watch claims.

Human Rights Watch said it documented accounts of masked men attacking protesters during the weekend in the Kurdish province of Sulaymaniyah.

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Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North African director at Human Rights Watch, said from Lebanon that the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq was sending "thugs" to do their "dirty work."

"It is shameful that after decades of repression, Kurds today still don't have the rights and freedoms promised by the KRG, including the right to peaceful protest," she said in a statement.

Her complaints came as Iraqi soldiers ordered the offices of the Iraqi Nation Party closed in Baghdad, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said. WINEP's former visiting fellow Mithal al-Alusi leads the party, which has no representation in the current government.

The party supported a so-called Day of Rage in the country in late February.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on protesters to avoid February demonstrations. He said it was an opportunity for al-Qaida and other insurgents groups to incite violence. Top clerics, including Moqtada Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued similar statements before the protests.

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The full news release from HRW

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