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Democracy protesters sexually assaulted, beaten in Iraq

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Ah, the new Iraq. The freedom from Saddam Hussein, the flourishing young democracy the … beating and sexual molesting of peaceful protesters.

While the country may be better off without Hussein, the sorts of tactics he relied on are increasingly being used by the powers that replaced him. The semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq's north has been suppressing activists demanding free and elections and an end to the feudal politics of the region. It appears the central Iraqi government has been going the Kurds one better.

Human Rights Watch charges today that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to have ordered the beating, stabbing, and sexual assault of protesters earlier this month.

"It’s pretty worrying," says Joe Stork, the head of the Middle East department at Human Rights Watch. "There are a few things that we hadn’t seen before, like the sexual molesting, that kind of thing. The pattern of using plain clothes people who to all appearances were working with the connivance of the security people, that’s certainly not new … we saw that when the so-called Arab spring protests started in Baghdad in February. This use of 'thugs' who may or may not be security is itself not unique to Iraq; in fact, it seems to be right out of the Egyptian playbook."

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