In Rudaw 

Protest investigation, job, and housing reform tabled in emergency govt meeting: Iraq PM

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced Wednesday a series of reform “decisions” after nationwide protests demanded an end to corruption and the improvement of basic services in the country.

Abdul-Mahdi’s announcement came after a Tuesday meeting of the Council of Ministers – Iraqi government’s executive branch – centering on the demands of protesters.

“The Council of Ministers agreed on 17 decisions on Saturday in an emergency meeting,” he said in his speech.

“The main ones are to provide more than 500,000 job opportunities, and building 100,000 houses for poor families,” he detailed.

Protests demanding action to tackle high youth unemployment, poverty, poor services, and corruption first broke out on October 1 in Baghdad, quickly spreading to other parts of the country. Security forces used live ammunition, water cannons and tear gas to quell protests, as well as the imposition of curfews and road closures.

According to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), at least 100 people were killed and more than 6000 people injured since protests began.

After months of sustained protest outside Baghdad ministry buildings by master’s degree and PhD holders demanding greater employment opportunities, Abdul-Mahdi announced the government would assist with the recruitment of postgraduates at universities.

While the council of minister decisions focused mainly on reform, it also concerned those killed and injured during the protests, with three days of national mourning for those killed proposed by the Council of Ministers.

Abdul-Mahdi announced the Iraqi government would provide financial assistance to the bereaved and cover treatment costs of injured protesters and security force members.

The Prime Minister, who is also commander-in-chief of the military forces, said he ordered the halt of live ammunition use by security forces at protests, promising to hold those responsible for its use accountable.

“We ordered live ammunition use must be avoided by all the security forces,” Abdul-Mahdi said.

“The Iraqi government started an investigation to punish the officers who did not abide with the law and the orders of the chief in command,” he added.

All detained protesters would be released,“except for the ones who killed or attacked governmental buildings.”

A committee to supervise the implementation of the decisions is to be established next week, according to the Iraqi premier.

Protests have recently slowed down with the start of the holy Shiite ceremony of Arbaeen, with protesters heading to Karbala. However, many protesters on social media are vowing to restart protests once Arbaeen ends.

Iraq’s military admitted using excessive force on protesters and vowed to hold security force members accountable, while Iraq’s highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council, has said that it will launch investigations into those responsible for killing protesters.

Use of excessive force on protesters has garnered international condemnation. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday condemned lethal violence during protests in Iraq in a phone call with Abdul-Mahdi, calling on Baghdad to “exercise maximum restraint” and address protester grievances. Source