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Iraq's communist poet Muzaffar al-Nawab dies aged 88

A policeman talks on the phone near a mural depicting Iraqi poet Muzzafar al-Nawab in Baghdad
— Baghdad (AFP)

Iraq's renowned communist poet Muzaffar al-Nawab, who faced jail time and exile in the 1960s, died Friday in an Emirati hospital aged 88, Iraqi authorities announced.

The culture ministry said he died after a long battle against illness, without giving details.

"He lives on in the spirit of all those who sing his immortal poems," President Barham Saleh tweeted.

Born in 1934 into a prominent Baghdad family, Nawab was renowned for his poems filled with revolutionary fervour, a commitment to the communist cause and criticism of Arab dictatorships.

His stands led to spells in prison, as well as periods of exile in Iran, Damascus, Beirut and European capitals.

Nawab is credited with having integrated colloquial Iraqi Arabic into his works.

He last visited Iraq in 2011, when he was received in grand pomp by the presidency. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi called Friday for his body to be repatriated by ministerial aircraft.

The poems of Nawab, who was unmarried and had no children, were often evoked during the autumn 2019 wave of youth-led anti-corruption protests that swept Iraq.

"Why did Muzaffar al-Nawab die in the Emirates?... Because you've governed Iraq for 19 years, because Baghdad hospitals do not treat patients, because the country is not livable," Iraqi journalist Omar al-Janabi tweeted.