Iraq announces third reform package as Sadr urges fresh Friday protests

Iraq announces third reform package as Sadr urges fresh Friday protests
Firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for peaceful protests to resume on Friday, prompting Baghdad to announce a new reform package.
2 min read
21 October, 2019
Iraq's protests began on October 1 and are expected to resume on Friday. [Getty]
The Iraqi government issued a new reform package on Sunday, the third one in less than a month, as influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gave his supporters the green light to resume anti-government protests.

The reform packages have been introduced to alleviate anti-government protests that have shaken the country for the last few weeks, Arabi21 reported.

Anti-government protests lasted for a week beginning on October 1, with young Iraqis denouncing corruption, unemployment and the state of the economy.

The demonstrations - noteworthy for their spontaneity - were subsequently violently suppressed by security forces, leading to 110 deaths and 6,000 wounded, most of them protestors, as per AFP.

Calls have been made for the protests to resume on Friday for the anniversary of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi's government taking office.

Also read: Iraqi pilgrims take anti-corruption 
protests to annual Arbaeen march

"It's your right to participate in protests on October 25," al-Sadr told his followers in a Facebook post on Saturday evening. The protesters have in the past opposed any appropriation of their leaderless movement, and the popular cleric was more restrained on Sunday in comparison to his previous calls for "million-man marches".  

"Those who don't want to take part in this revolution can choose another via the ballot box in internationally supervised elections and without the current politicians," he added.

The new reform package includes training by the ministry of electricity and granting subsidies to the unemployed in an effort to better prepare them for work in state institutions.

Sadr has called for his supporters to protest peacefully despite violence against them, saying “they expect you to be armed,” alluding to authorities blaming "saboteurs" for infiltrating protests. "But I don't think you will be," he added.

The firebrand cleric’s influence was on display on Saturday during the Shia Arbaeen pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala where thousands of his supporters, dressed in white shrouds, chanted "Baghdad free, out with the corrupt!"

October 25 marks the deadline issued by the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shia majority Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, for the government to respond to protester demands.

Iraq is among the world's most corrupt countries, according to the Transparency International index.

Financial and administrative corruption has undermined the institutions of the Iraqi state. Although the country receives tens of billions of dollars annually from the sale of oil, its population complains about the lack of public services such as electricity, health and education. 

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