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Iraq: Widespread Concerns over Friday Protests

Iraq: Widespread Concerns over Friday Protests

Saturday, 19 October, 2019 - 08:45
Demonstrators gesture at a protest during a curfew, three days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 4, 2019. Reuters

Iraq's top Shiite Religious Authority on Friday refrained from announcing a new stance from the government and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi despite a fiery sermon last week.

Protesters have interpreted its previous position as an implicit support to their demands after it held the government responsible for the crackdown on demonstrators that left over 100 people dead and thousands injured.

Najaf’s Religious Authority did not make any announcement regarding the reforms declared by the government.

However, MP Hussein Arab expressed belief that the Authority is adopting a wait-and-see approach, mainly on the result of the investigations carried out by the high commission of inquiry to determine who ordered sniper fire on demonstrators.

The commission, chaired by Minister of Planning Nouri Sabah al-Dulaimi, has delivered its final report to the PM. Its membership includes representatives from several ministries, security services, the Supreme Judicial Council, parliament and the Commission on Human Rights.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab indicated that the Religious Authority has conditioned the commission to reveal the truth on the party standing behind the deadly attacks on the protesters.

He noted that this will determine its future steps and whether it will support the government’s reform measures.

The MP also expected an official stance from the Sadrist Movement, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, regarding the demonstrations, the government and parliament.

It is not yet clear whether the movement will participate in the next demonstration, according to Arab.

He said parliament is required to take quick measures to confront the challenges facing the country.

The high commission of inquiry said in its report to the PM that it has analyzed videos and photographs of the demonstrations and heard the testimonies of citizens and security forces.

The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) stressed the importance of dealing with the demonstrators properly.

IHCHR member Fadhel al-Gharawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Commission demanded the government compensate the peaceful protestors, adding that it will follow up with the concerned agencies to ensure the implementation of the required reforms that will improve the general situation in the country.

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