ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish lawmakers from the Gorran (Change) Movement in the Iraqi parliament on Saturday called on Baghdad to prepare an “urgent” reform project amid nationwide protests that have resulted in the deaths of close to 100 people.
“The demonstrations by unarmed Iraqi citizens are the result of the accumulation of years of waste of Iraq’s wealth by the hundreds of billions due to the corruption of successive authoritarian elites, the lack of basic services, unemployment, and the weakening of citizens’ confidence in the democratic process due to the rigging of general and local elections,” Gorran said in a statement.
“We in the Gorran parliamentary bloc support the legitimate demands of the demonstrators and strongly condemn the use of live rounds to counter them,” continued the statement, which called on Baghdad “to prepare an actual and urgent reform and ministerial changes necessary as soon as possible to be voted on in parliament.”
On Thursday, Amnesty International sternly rebuked Iraqi security forces’ violent response to the demonstrations, saying, “The Iraqi government must immediately order security forces to stop using excessive, including lethal, force against protesters."
Lawmakers are expected to hold an extraordinary session to discuss the protests, which, in their first four days, led to the deaths of 93 protesters or security forces, the injury of 3,870, and the arrest of 567, according to UN figures.
Earlier on Saturday, Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi met with purported representatives of the demonstrators from various parts of the country to hear their demands in preparation for the special session.
Gorran stated that the parliament convening “without a project and a clear road map for change and radical reform would not lead to the resolution of problems and could worsen the situation further.”
On Friday, influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr—who commands a coalition that makes up about half of parliament—called for snap elections and the resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. Sadr also blamed politicians in general for the violence that has engulfed the country, the worst since Abdul Mahdi's predecessor proclaimed the Islamic State defeated in late 2017.
On Thursday evening, Abdul Mahdi responded to the protests by promising a minimum income scheme for Iraqi citizens, saying, “The protesters have the right to demand an end to corruption, but it takes time for change to take place.”
The prime minister asserted there was no “magic solution” to the problems of governance and abuse of power in Iraq but vowed to try to pass a law that would give low-income families a basic income.
Early Saturday morning, state media announced that Abdul Mahdi had lifted a curfew that had been in effect since Wednesday.
Editing by John J. Catherine