ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s parliament has voted to increase the number of Kurdish members of the newly-formed Constitutional Amendments Committee, formed in response to deadly anti-corruption protests that began in Baghdad in early October and quickly spread to several southern and central provinces.
The 18-member committee initially included three Kurds, but Kurdish parties in parliament demanded more significant representation.
The Constitutional Amendments Committee is an interim board set up by parliament to propose amendments to the government’s 2005 founding document following the overthrow of the Baathist regime by a US-led coalition two years earlier. It held its first meeting last week.
Parliament's deputy speaker, Bashir al-Haddad, said in a statement on Saturday that lawmakers had voted to increase the number of Kurds on the board from three to six. He listed the names as Viyan Sabri, Joan Ehsan, Youssef Mohamed Sadiq, Abd al-Bari Modarris, Jamal Kochar, and Rebwar Hadi.
The vote came during Saturday’s session, attended by 232 out of 329 total members.
The vast majority of Iraq's ethnic Kurds reside in the four provinces that make up the Kurdistan Region, to the north of the country. They also make up varying percentages of the population in areas disputed by the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Article 140, which spells out a mechanism for resolving the disputed territories, was added to the Constitution precisely because the issue was so contentious that it would have held up the national document's ratification. It contained a deadline to resolve the disputed territories by 2007, but the initial competing claims to the land remain, so the article has never been implemented. Erbil has long complained that Baghdad has blocked the execution of the article, among others.
As lawmakers began efforts to amend the Constitution in an attempt to appease protester's demands for an overhaul of Iraq’s government, Kurdish politicians have been hesitant to support such moves in fear that they may weaken the position of the KRG's territorial claims.
On Tuesday, Iraqi President Barham Salih, who is ethnically Kurdish, was in Erbil to discuss potential constitutional amendments in meetings with top Kurdistan Region officials, including the regional prime minister, president, and parliament speaker. They then met with leaders of all Kurdish political parties in the region.
These developments come as protests continue in Iraq, mainly based in the capital Baghdad and the oil-rich province of Basra. A crackdown by various security forces has reportedly led to the deaths of over 300 demonstrators and injury to some 12,000 others.
On Saturday, Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government to “rein in security forces” as the violence continued.
That same day, local media quoted medical sources as saying that seven people were killed and nearly 100 injured when demonstrators tried to reach the fortified Baghdad's Green Zone, where many government offices and diplomatic missions are located.
Editing by John J. Catherine