Iraq Gears Up for Comprehensive Census, Sidesteps Controversies


Vehicles pass by the waterfront of the Shatt al-Arab River in Basra, southern Iraq (AFP)
Vehicles pass by the waterfront of the Shatt al-Arab River in Basra, southern Iraq (AFP)
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Iraq Gears Up for Comprehensive Census, Sidesteps Controversies


Vehicles pass by the waterfront of the Shatt al-Arab River in Basra, southern Iraq (AFP)
Vehicles pass by the waterfront of the Shatt al-Arab River in Basra, southern Iraq (AFP)

Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning, Mohammed Ali Tamim, announced Wednesday the start of a trial census across all provinces, including Kurdistan Region (Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah), set for next Friday.

Officials say the census will avoid sensitive topics like ethnicity and focus on religion.

If successful, the government plans to launch an official census on Nov. 20, the first in 27 years since 1997.

The previous census, more than 25 years ago, didn’t include Kurdistan due to political issues under Saddam Hussein's rule.

Since 2005, Iraq has tried to conduct a census, but it faced setbacks, mainly due to political tensions over areas like Kirkuk, disputed between Arabs and Kurds.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Tamim thanked families and local communities for their cooperation with researchers in the trial census, stressing the importance of keeping data private.

He assured that data collection would follow strict privacy standards and only be used for development purposes. The trial will start in specific areas across all provinces on Friday, covering 86 localities with 764 researchers involved.

According to the minister, the trial will include various localities in Baghdad, Basra, Nineveh, and others, with researchers wearing uniforms and carrying tablets to transmit data securely.

Abdul Zahra Al-Hindawi, a spokesperson for the Planning Ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the November census is solely for development purposes and won’t ask about ethnicity or religion.

He said the focus is on understanding people’s living conditions to address them, not on demographics like Arab or Kurdish populations.

Al-Hindawi stressed that international standards suggest avoiding controversial topics in population surveys.



De-escalation Agreement between Yemen Govt, Houthis Paves Way for Economic Talks

The Houthi-held central bank in Sanaa. (Reuters)
The Houthi-held central bank in Sanaa. (Reuters)
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De-escalation Agreement between Yemen Govt, Houthis Paves Way for Economic Talks

The Houthi-held central bank in Sanaa. (Reuters)
The Houthi-held central bank in Sanaa. (Reuters)

The legitimate Yemeni government and Iran-backed Houthi group reached an agreement to de-escalate the economic tensions between them related to banks and the national airline in the hopes of paving the way for comprehensive economic talks between the two parties.

The central bank in the interim capital Aden had withdrawn the licenses of six banks operating in regions held by the Houthis after they had failed to relocate to Aden.

The Houthis retaliated by taking similar measures against banks operating in government-held areas. They also seized four Yemenia Airways planes at Sanaa airport over disputes related to the company’s revenues.

In a statement on Tuesday, United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said the government and Houthis agreed on several measures to de-escalate in relation to the banking sector and Yemenia Airways.

The parties agreed to “cancel all the recent decisions and procedures against banks by both sides and refrain in the future from any similar decisions or procedures.”

They agreed on “resuming Yemenia Airways’ flights between Sanaa and Jordan and increasing the number of flights to three daily flights, and operating flights to Cairo and India daily or as needed.”

Meetings will be convened to address the administrative, technical, and financial challenges faced by the company, added the statement.

The parties also agreed on “initiating the convening of meetings to discuss all economic and humanitarian issues based on the roadmap.”

The parties requested the support of the UN in implementing their commitments.

Grundberg recognized “the significant role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in bringing this agreement about.”

He expressed the UN’s “readiness to work with the parties to implement the measures they agreed. He additionally offered that his Office supports communication with the authorities of Jordan, Egypt, and India.”

Grundberg stressed the need “for the parties to collaborate towards an economy that benefits all Yemenis and supports the implementation of a nationwide ceasefire and the resumption of an inclusive political process.”

Commenting on the agreement, the Yemeni government stressed that it aimed to ease the people’s humanitarian suffering, especially in regions held by the Houthis.

It hailed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their role in achieving the agreement, saying it reflects their firm stances in support of the Yemeni people.

It welcomed Grundberg’s statement, saying it hopes the deal will lead to “constructive dialogue to end all of the Houthis’ destructive policies against banks and the national economy and currency.”

It hoped the Houthis would also meet their commitments towards the roadmap, starting with resuming the export of oil.

It stressed that the government’s economic reforms aim to empower the central bank in managing monetary policy and protecting depositors and deposits.

Furthermore, the government said the agreement on flights will allow thousands of patients seeking medical treatment to receive it abroad. It will also allow Yemenis seeking work opportunities and students to pursue an education aboard.

This will help ease the burden of the war sparked by the Iran-backed Houthis ten years ago, it remarked.

It called on the international community to assume its responsibilities in applying more pressure on the Houthis so that they can prioritize the people’s interests above those of their backers, who want to drag Yemen and its people towards another war.