By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Is Iran trying to hijack Iraqi protesters’ demands?

In reaction to continuing mass protests that began Oct. 1, the Supreme Judicial Council is reviewing the Iraqi Constitution and will submit proposed amendments to parliament — though protesters fear that will only delay action on their demands.

Parliament has formed an Amendment Committee that is to complete its recommendations within four months, aiming to answer protesters’ demands for reforms to end corruption and the electoral quota system, which is based on religious and ethnic affiliations.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

On Sunday, the UN issued the following statement on the crisis facing Iraq:

Over the past weeks, demonstrations erupted in Baghdad and other governorates in Iraq. Protester demands cover a wide spectrum of issues, including economic growth and employment, reliable public services, prudent and impartial governance, an end to corruption, credible elections as well as broader reform of the political system – including amendments to the constitution.

An accumulation of frustrations about the lack of progress in the last 16 years is clearly perceptible, and with rising numbers of deaths and injured (both protesters and members of the Iraqi Security Forces) a climate of anger and fear has set in. The Iraqi people cannot afford to be held back by the past nor by partisan interests.

Rising hope asks for a leap forward, including the understanding that – in today’s digital age – daily life has moved online. Meanwhile, the risk of ‘spoilers’ hijacking peaceful demonstrations is increasing and potentially derailing any attempt at genuine change. Time is therefore of the essence, as are tangible results.

To start with, and following consultations with a wide range of Iraqi parties, actors and authorities (including the three Presidencies, the Supreme Judicial Council, protesters and union representatives), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) proposes the following principles and measures:

PRINCIPLES

The following principles apply to all parties at all times:

  1. Protect the right to life above all.
  2. Guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression,
    as granted in the constitution.
  3. Practice maximum restraint in the handling of the protests, including no use of live ammunition, ban the improper use of non-lethal devices (such as tear gas canisters).
  4. Deliver full accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims.
  5. Act in keeping with the law, including in regard to public and private properties.

MEASURES

Immediate measures (less than a week) include:

  1. Release all peaceful demonstrators detained since 1 October, in accordance with the law.
  2. No peaceful demonstrators shall be targeted.
  3. Initiate full investigation of cases of abduction (including by making available CCTV footage), and reveal the identity of those responsible.
  4. Accelerate the identification and prosecution of those responsible for targeting demonstrators.
  5. Prosecute and punish those responsible for the excessive use of force and/or other violent acts, in accordance with the law.
  6. Publicly call on all regional and international parties not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, respecting its sovereignty.

Short term measures (within one week to two weeks) include:

  1. Electoral reform: With the technical support of the UN, a single legal framework shall be finalized. Soon after, the framework shall be submitted to the Council of Representatives (CoR). The parliamentary procedure shall be completed as soon as possible.
  2. Security Sector Reform: Executive Order 237 shall be fully implemented without delay. Any weapons outside state control shall be prohibited. Any outlaw armed entity or rogue element shall be considered illegal and it is the state’s responsibility to take them on.
  3. Corruption: The political elite shall lead by example, for instance by publicly declaring their assets – at home and abroad, held under their own name or another. Additionally, political parties/blocs and movements shall abolish their economic committees.

Medium term measures (within one to three months) include:

  1. Constitution: With the technical support of the UN, the Constitutional Review Committee shall continue its work. Any amendment to the constitution shall be put to referendum by the people of Iraq.
  2. Corruption: The Commission of Integrity shall submit corruption cases to the High Judicial Council or the Central Anti-Corruption Court. The Central Anti-Corruption Court shall handle corruption cases at all levels of the state. All corrupt officials will be held accountable and prosecuted.
  3. Enactment of laws: The Government shall send the following draft laws to the CoR, and the CoR shall complete its due process as soon as possible:
    1. A law addressing the principle: ‘Where did you get this from?
    2. The Federal Court Law
    3. The Social Security Law
    4. Law on resolving the Housing Crisis
    5. The Oil and Gas (Hydrocarbon) Law
    6. Amending the Law on Encouraging Investments and Public-Private Sector Partnership
    7. The Council of Ministers and Ministries Law
    8. The Reconstruction Council Law

(Source: UNAMI)

The Cabinet held its regular weekly meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and with the presence of the governors.

The Cabinet decided to grant the Minister of Oil the authority to recruit graduates of the 2018-2019 oil vocational training courses to become employees of the Ministry of Oil and its public companies.

The Cabinet agreed to reduce customs fees on plastic granules for industrial projects.

The Cabinet granted the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs the authority to contract 1,000 researchers to ensure the timely and accurate completion of the projects and reforms decided by the Cabinet.

The Cabinet granted the National Investment Commission the power to sign the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation.

The Cabinet decided to start the first phase of the “Babylon Sewerage Project” as per the recommendations made by the Governor of Babylon and the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Municipalities’ Audit and Approval Committee, and the executive commission. The project will be implemented by KAMA.

The Cabinet approved the draft law for the Iraqi Olympic Committee and referred it to the Council of Representatives.

The Cabinet also approved the recommendation made by the Ministerial Council on Energy to implement projects on government land and properties after obtaining the initial approval from the owner and the relevant authorities and following all the necessary legal requirements.

(Source: Government of Iraq)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Success, growth, career, development signpost from 3D_Creation/Shutterstock)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Manar al-Zubaidi.

Diwaniyah Protests Reveal Divide, When It Comes To Anti-Govt. Tactics

While some demonstrators in Diwaniyah cleaned up the street, provided free meals and supported peaceful protesters, others burned politician’s offices and homes.

This weekend, in the southern city of Diwaniyah, thousands of people gathered near the offices of the provincial government. All Friday morning, more demonstrators joined the crowd and there were calls to maintain the peace while demanding political reform.

The government offices themselves were blockaded with concrete barriers and security forces surrounded the headquarters. Many of the demonstrators wanted to try and enter the building but security forces repelled them. Eventually, emboldened by their numbers, some of the protestors started trying to enter the offices by climbing walls at the back of the complex. It was at this stage that security forces began to fire tear gas at the crowd.

In a large square opposite the government offices, protestors carrying a large sign climbed a central monument. Locals were surprised when the sign was eventually unfurled: It was the picture of a young man who had been killed during the protests. On the sign were written demands for justice, asking the government to reveal the names of those who had killed this young demonstrator.

The Iraqi federal government had said their investigations into the killing of unarmed protestors by snipers were concluded; as a result, around a dozen military officers were suspended. However the question asked on this banner – who were the snipers? – was never satisfactorily answered.

Many among Diwaniyah’s demonstrators were determined to stay in the city centre all weekend and a number of volunteer initiatives began as a result.

Restaurants and shops nearby were closed so teams of locals, many of them women, arrived and offered the demonstrators food, water and tea for free.

Unlike demonstrations that took place earlier in the month, there were many more Iraqi women present at the weekend’s events.

“We decided to participate more this time, to support our brothers,” Afra al-Taie, a local activist, told NIQASH. “We believe that the presence of females in these protests will ease tensions because both the security forces and the protesters feel a sense of responsibility. They feel that they should protect women who are present.”

During the protests, the streets were increasingly littered but teams of young men began to clean them, picking up rubbish. “We don’t want to tarnish our reputation and we don’t want the government to accuse us of creating chaos,” Naseer al-Mohamdawi, one of those picking up litter, told NIQASH. “So we are cleaning up and organizing things in this area so nobody can criticize us.”

But the demonstrators in Diwaniyah did not all feel the same way. Angry protesters also decided to split into several groups and go to the headquarters of political parties and to the homes of their officials. The headquarters of one of those, the powerful Badr Organization, which boasts one of the largest Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq, was set on fire. It was here that tragedy struck. While one group of protesters was inside the building, that had otherwise been empty, another group of protesters apparently set the building alight. Eleven people trapped inside the building died although some managed to get out by jumping off the roof.

Another of Diwaniyah’s youthful demonstrators, Abdul Rida al-Khafaji, said this tragic incident was the result of a lack of coordination between the different groups. “The young people here are just so angry, some of them don’t listen to the instructions from the coordinating committees of the protests,” he explained.

During the weekend, several other party offices were also attacked and burned by protesters. Also attacked was a political party-controlled radio station and the homes of the head of the provincial council, Jubair Salman al-Jubouri, and MP Faisal al-Nayeli. At the headquarters of the notoriously hardline League of the Righteous militia, or Asaib Ahl al-Haq, there was an exchange of gunfire.

In an attempt to control the situation, local security forces eventually declared a curfew. A large military contingent also arrived to reinforce local troops. While a number of demonstrators were eventually arrested, most of the participants say they will continue to go to the streets and assert their right to protest.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said that the continuation of the European Union’s implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Iraq in the light of the security services’ continued use of lethal force against the escalating protests does not serve the goals and values of promoting human rights principles and spreading democracy in the war-torn country.

The Euro-Med had made a series of contacts and sent urgent letters to members of the European Parliament, including the European Parliamentary Relations Committee, and the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the Parliament to inform them of the suppression of demonstrations in the country, calling on the EU to suspend its partnership agreement with Iraq.

The Euro-Med questioned the feasibility of continuing the implementation of the agreement with the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, which continues to launch systematic and bloody campaigns against popular protests calling for overthrowing the government for failing to address corruption and addressing electricity cuts and unemployment.

The European Commission announced earlier that the agreement focuses on common interests of the EU and Iraq such as democracy and human rights, economic, migration, security, energy, environmental affairs.

Since the start of the second wave of anti-government protests last Friday, at least 74 Iraqis have been killed and hundreds of others have been injured, raising the total death toll in October to 231.

The Euro-Med warned of the danger of targeting thousands of Iraqi protesters in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad for the fourth day in a row by the security services pointing out that the security solution will not contribute to putting down the protests, but it would only increase tension.

Despite the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s announcement that its forces had faced protests with gas and rubber bullets, the protesters affirmed snipers fired live bullets to disperse the protests.

The Euro-Med documented that on the fifth of October snipers targeted protesters and caused deaths, while others were seriously injured in three locations in Baghdad and in the southern Iraqi governorates during the first wave of protests, which lasted for eight days.

The use of lethal force against protesters and the arrest of hundreds of them violates the international and Iraqi laws. The UN Code of Conduct stipulates that law enforcement officials exercising powers should protect all people from harm.

The Code of Conduct stipulates that the officials should respect and protect human dignity and preserve the human rights of all persons during the performance of their duties.

The Euro-Med stressed the need for the Iraqi government to enable citizens, media and political activists to bear their responsibilities so that people could express their opinions freely by giving them enough space to publish and share news and updates, without restriction or prosecution.

The Euro-Med called on the Iraqi government to immediately release all citizens and activists who were arrested over participating in the protests, stressing that their continued detention constitutes a serious and a clear violation of international laws and conventions, which guarantee the right to freedom of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly.

“The failure of the Ministry of Health, hospitals and health departments in Baghdad and a number of Iraqi provinces to issue official statistics of the number of deaths and injuries is a violation of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission Law No. 53 of 2008,” Omar Abdullah, a researcher at Euro-Med said.

Abdullah added that the Iraqi authorities should adhere to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which provide for the use of non-violent means by security forces as far as possible before resorting to force.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the Iraqi authorities to initiate an immediate and impartial investigation into the use of lethal force in dispersing the protesters, and to investigate allegations that security forces did not allow medical staff to provide services to the injured, and to ensure that all the wounded receive immediate care without obstacles.

The Euro-Med urged the EU to suspend the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement until Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government brings members of the Iraqi security forces, including commanders responsible for the use of excessive lethal force to court, and to stop using any form of violence against demonstrators. The Euro-Med called on the Iraqi authorities to take concrete actions to affirm its commitment to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly in the country.

(Source: Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor)

By Daniel J. Samet, for The Diplomat. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

China, Not Iran, Is the Power to Watch in Iraq

Iran is all over Iraq, U.S. Middle East watchers warn. At his nomination for U.S. ambassador to Iraq this March, Matthew Tueller mentioned Iran 17 times in his written statement.

This concern with Iranian influence was echoed at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing a few months later, where officials from the State and Defense Departments advocated continued American engagement in Iraq as a buffer against Iran. One does not have to look far for pieces outlining strategies for containing Iranian expansionism in its western neighbor.

Analysts are right to worry about foreign influence in Iraq — a weak state racked by sectarian tension and extremism and currently embroiled in mass social unrest. Yet while the United States fixates on Iranian ambitions, a far more formidable power has stepped in. Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi revealed that his country was signing on to China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

His announcement coincided with his state visit to Beijing, which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime feted with habitual adulation in state media.

The full article can be viewed here.

(Source: The Diplomat)

Journalists injured and detained, broadcasters banned as protests resume in Iraq

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned recent attacks on journalists and media outlets in Iraq, and urged authorities to ensure that journalists can cover the ongoing protests in the country safely and without obstruction.

After a brief lull, anti-corruption and unemployment protests reignited in Iraq on October 24, and led to at least 74 deaths by October 27, according to news reports and a statement by the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.

At least two journalists for local broadcaster Al-Sumaria TV have been injured in the latest wave of protests, one journalist was briefly detained, and two broadcasters have been banned, according to statements from the National Union of Journalists in Iraq and local press freedom organization Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, as well as news reports.

“Iraqi authorities seem more focused on preventing journalists from doing their jobs than on protecting them from harm while they cover protests,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on Iraqi authorities to do all they can to ensure that journalists and news outlets can do their jobs freely and safely.”

On October 25, police fired a tear gas canister that hit Hisham Wassim, a reporter for Al-Sumaria TV, in the face while he was covering protests at Baghdad’s Jumhuriyya Bridge, according to the journalists’ union statement and reports by his employer.

Wassim was seriously injured by the grenade and was taken to Al-Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, according to those reports. On October 27, he was flown to Beirut for surgery, according to his employer. Zian, an Al-Sumaria employee who declined to provide their full name to CPJ, said via phone that Wassim is set to receive minor surgery on his face, but had not sustained any bone fractures.

On October 26, police fired a tear gas bomb that hit Ali Jassem, a camera operator for Al-Sumaria TV, in his right hand and abdomen with shrapnel while he was covering protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, according to his employer, the journalists’ union, and the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq.

Zian told CPJ that Jassem sustained light injuries and had gone back to work.

At 2:30 a.m. on October 27, a group of counter-terrorism agents stormed into the house of Hussein al-Amal, a reporter for the newspaper Al-Mada, in the southern Iraqi city of al-Nasiriyah and detained al-Amal, his son, and his nephew, according to the Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq and Amir Hamid, a researcher for Al-Mada, who spoke to CPJ via email.

Agents took al-Amal and his family members to the Counter-Terrorism Directorate in al-Nasiriyah on allegations of participating in demonstrations, and released him and his nephew on bail a few hours later, according to a Facebook post by al-Amal. His son was released the following night, according to another post by al-Amal.

In a video posted to Facebook, al-Amal said he had gone to the protests as part of his work as a journalist. The day before his arrest, he had reported in Al-Mada on clashes between protesters and militias in al-Nasiriyah.

Iraqi authorities have also cracked down on news coverage of the protests. On October 24, the Iraqi Interior Ministry banned live coverage of the protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, according to news reports.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Brigadier General Khaled al-Muhanna was cited by the news website Nas News as saying that authorized journalists were allowed to interview protesters and record the protests, but not to broadcast them live.

On October 25, Iraq’s media regulator, the Communications and Media Committee, ordered the Amman-based Iraqi satellite broadcaster Al-Dijlah TV’s transmissions into Iraq to be blocked and its offices shut down for allegedly failing to abide by professional standards, according to news reports and the journalists’ union statement.

Al-Dijlah TV’s offices in Baghdad were ransacked and burned by unidentified armed assailants on October 5, as CPJ reported at the time.

Jamal Karbouli, leader of the Al-Hal Party and owner of Dijlah TV, said on Twitter that Dijlah TV had never violated professional standards, and said it covered Iraq truthfully.

“I prefer the closure of Dijlah TV and the stopping of its broadcast a thousand times over hiding the truth from Iraqis,” Karbouli said in his tweet.

On October 27, Iraqi police told Saudi broadcaster Al-Arabiya and its sister company Al-Hadath that the outlets were banned from operating in the country and urged theirs staffs to cease all journalistic work, citing a licensing issue, according to news reports and a report by Al-Arabiya.

CPJ emailed the Communications and Media Committee and the Iraqi Interior Ministry for comment, but did not immediately receive any replies.

(Source: CPJ)

A special report, prepared by the Human Rights Office of UNAMI, outlines key human rights concerns regarding the demonstrations that occurred in Iraq from 1 to 9 October 2019.

UNAMI’s interim findings indicate that serious human rights violations and abuses have been committed during the recent protests. The report contains a set of recommendations and urges Iraqi authorities to take concrete steps to ensure accountability, to prevent human rights violations and to enable peaceful demonstrations in the future.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said:

“Iraq has come a long way, it is essential not to further undermine its many achievements. A climate of intimidation and fear is unworthy of Iraq’s potential as an open and democratic society. The UNAMI report highlights shortcomings and measures to prevent them in the future.”

Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert took note of today’s release of the Investigative Committee’s report:

“This is an important step towards accountability, and I urge that further steps be taken to prosecute and punish those responsible. This is of great importance as investigations, delivering accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims, also serve as critical tools of prevention and protection.”

UNAMI’s preliminary findings include credible reports of violations of the right to life, including deliberate killings of unarmed protesters and the excessive use of force by units deployed to manage the demonstrations.

The report also highlights concerns regarding the widespread use of repressive measures to limit publicly available information on the demonstrations as well as allegations of arbitrary arrests, threats and harassment. It furthermore calls on all demonstrators to exercise their right to assembly in peaceful and non-violent ways, in keeping with the law.

“The loss of life, serious injuries and harm resulting from the violence during the demonstrations was both tragic and preventable,” said Chief of UNAMI Human Rights Office, Danielle Bell. “Concrete steps to enable peaceful assemblies and protect those participating should be a priority.”

Click here to download the full report.

(Source: UNAMI)

Baroness Nicholson and IBBC host Deputy speaker to Iraqi parliament and MP’s to discuss business in Iraq.

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) hosted a meeting in the Houses of Parliament with Mr Bashar Tawfeeq the Deputy Speaker, Mr Gates Alrikabi in the State of Law block, Mr Hussein Almaliky a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and Mr Ahmed Alsaffar from the Kurdish Democratic Party and member of the finance committee.

Topics for discussion included; the state of Iraqi protests, the overall safety of the country and the reasons behind them. This included the need for jobs, political reform and frustration among young people.  With this, Parliament is now keen to speed up change and implement business reforms.

Mr Tawfeeq made a major call for business and investment to come to Iraq, from IBBC members and British business in general. He stated how welcome the British are in Iraq as our legacy from the C20th lives on in infrastructure and buildings, how tax and land can be very low and businesses that come will be very profitable.

He made a pledge to remove as many obstacles as possible to investment, including accelerating reforms to investors, provision of free land and to pay attention to any impediments British companies face.

Members of IBBC shared their concerns and observations on safety and transparency in Iraq, the dominance of the state sector and bureaucracy and the need to undertake banking easily and simply, to facilitate more business. Mr Tawfeeq said the Iraqi Parliament will always investigate concerns and is aware that reform needs to be speeded up.

Baroness Nicholson also expressed the need to enable more women to participate in employment without threat, as most modern economies rely on all the talents in a country to be successful.

(Source: IBBC)