The Iraqi cabinet has sacked 61 officials over recent protests that killed more than 100 people and injured thousands earlier this month, Anadolu reports.

Leaked documents obtained by Anadolu Agency showed that the decision was taken during a cabinet meeting on Oct. 14.

Protests rocked the capital Baghdad and southern provinces earlier this month against high unemployment and government corruption.

An Iraqi court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for two police officers in connection with the death of protesters during the demonstrations.

Iraq ranks 18 on Transparency International’s corruption scale, which goes from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Discontent has been growing in Iraq in recent years due to rising unemployment and rampant corruption. Many in the country have limited access to basic services such as electricity and clean water, and unemployment is around 10%.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Fed up with years of corruption, unemployment and a lack of basic services, tens of thousands of Iraqis are taking to the streets to protest for a better future.

Security forces have responded to the crowds of mostly young men with astonishing brutality, firing live ammunition, water cannons and tear gas.

More than 100 people have been killed and thousands injured in this latest round of protests, some of the biggest Iraq has seen in years.

Many demonstrators want a complete overhaul of the government. Others believe the best way forward is for the current government to make good on a new reform plan to tackle poverty and corruption.

But with the PM warning that there are “no magic solutions,” many are skeptical that things will actually change.

During Monday’s episode we ask, will protesters in Iraq get what they want?

The Iraqi government has announced that it had turned nine senior former officials over to the judiciary regarding corruption charges, and pledged to turn others over soon, news agencies reported.

In a statement, the Iraqi Supreme Anti-Corruption Council referred corruption cases of “nine high-ranking officials to the judiciary after the completion of the legal procedures supported by evidence.”

The council stressed that more cases of corruption “will be referred successively to the judiciary.”

However, monitors believe that this measure was announced in order to deescalate the mass protests which have been sweeping the country, protesting corruption, unemployment and lack of public services.

They claim that the government is not dedicated to fighting corruption, as all of the named officials are currently out of the country.

Addressing the Iraqis on Wednesday, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi declared that he would refer a number of senior officials to the courts over corruption charges.

Early this month, the Anti-Corruption Council announced turning 1,000 public servants over to the judiciary, due to corruption charges.

Iraqi officials stated that the judicial authority had formed a special committee in cooperation with the Anti-Corruption Council, to take decisions regarding these people as soon as possible.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

The Iraqi government has announced that it had turned nine senior former officials over to the judiciary regarding corruption charges, and pledged to turn others over soon, news agencies reported.

In a statement, the Iraqi Supreme Anti-Corruption Council referred corruption cases of “nine high-ranking officials to the judiciary after the completion of the legal procedures supported by evidence.”

The council stressed that more cases of corruption “will be referred successively to the judiciary.”

However, monitors believe that this measure was announced in order to deescalate the mass protests which have been sweeping the country, protesting corruption, unemployment and lack of public services.

They claim that the government is not dedicated to fighting corruption, as all of the named officials are currently out of the country.

Addressing the Iraqis on Wednesday, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi declared that he would refer a number of senior officials to the courts over corruption charges.

Early this month, the Anti-Corruption Council announced turning 1,000 public servants over to the judiciary, due to corruption charges.

Iraqi officials stated that the judicial authority had formed a special committee in cooperation with the Anti-Corruption Council, to take decisions regarding these people as soon as possible.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

The Iraqi government continues to block social media websites in all governorates amid mass demonstrations in the country. This is despite the partial return of internet service in the capital Baghdad and the southern governorates.

Despite the intermittent return of the internet service, the blocking of social media websites continues in all governorates of Iraq, except the Kurdistan region, according to Anadolu Agency, citing its correspondents and Internet users in Iraq.

“Over the past three days, the Internet service has been partially returned for a few hours and then cut back by the evening, but social networking websites remain blocked,” the sources said.

When the Iraqi government started blocking Facebook, Iraqis rushed to download applications to bypass the block. This includes virtual private networks (VPN) that allow access to servers outside Iraq, while others used satellite communications at a very high cost.

The cybersecurity organisation Netblocks said the almost complete internet service cuts imposed by the state in most regions severely limit “media coverage and transparency about the ongoing crisis.”

The Iraqi government cut off Internet access in the country simultaneously with the mass protests against it, which started a week ago and which were met with hostility.

A week ago, protests and popular demonstrations started from Baghdad, in demand of better public services, more job opportunities and fighting corruption, before spreading to the southern governorates with a Shiite majority.

Demonstrators demanded the ousting of the government led by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi after the security forces resorted to violence to contain the protests. However, the protests’ pace has significantly decreased since Tuesday to become limited mainly to Sadr City, east of Baghdad.

Last Sunday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that 104 people were killed during the demonstrations, including eight security and police officers, while medical sources said, Tuesday, that at least 165 people were killed in the protests.

The Iraqi authorities have admitted using excessive violence against protesters, pledging to hold those responsible accountable. They have asserted that it is currently in the process of making reforms to meet the demonstrators’ demands.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, CIO of Asia Frontier Capital (AFC) Iraq Fund.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Market Review: “The Economy, the Protest Movement and the Government”

In early October Iraq, Baghdad in particular, erupted in massive demonstrations, that at the time of writing led to over 110 civilian deaths and over 6,000 casualties. Demonstrations demanding the provision of services, economic prosperity and an end to corruption have been a feature of the Iraqi scene since 2010. However, they have grown in tempo, peaked in last year’s Basra’s demonstrations, and reignited again in October as a young and angry population ran out of patience with the government’s sclerotic pace of reform.

The government’s heavy-handed and over the top response to the protests, very much like last year in Basra, has angered the youth and transformed the protests into riots. While a worrying development that risks an escalation of violence and potentially a much larger conflict, these protests will likely run out of steam due to a combination of carrot, stick and fatigue, just like last year’s then deadly protests. (*)

The carrot element began to take shape with the government’s initial package of handouts in the form of payments, training programmes and subsidised loans for the unemployed youth, as well as subsidized housing for the country’s poor. The scope of these would be enlarged significantly over the course of the next few weeks as the government tries to appease an increasingly sceptical youth movement.

These handouts, whichever shape they take, would be overshadowed by the government’s plans for an expansionary budget for 2020, that would be on a much larger scale than that communicated by the government to the IMF over the summer.

The government has ample resources to implement all of these, as it has achieved a 31-month budget surplus of USD 27.5 bln by the end of July 2019 as shown by the Ministry of Finance’s latest data. Though, the impetus for it to act is driven by effects of the multi-year protest movement that had a profound effect on how the 2018 election was fought and the current government formation, as it led to the beginning of the break-up of the ethno-sectarian monolithic blocs that were dominant over the past 16 years and which were at the root of Iraq’s past instability.

An expansionary 2020 budget on the heels of 2019’s expansionary budget would likely fuel consumer spending and potentially lead to a stronger than expected consumer-led 3-4 year economic recovery.  Which could become a sustainable multi-year economic expansion should the government begin to implement a much-needed reconstruction and investment spending program in the non-oil economy.

The early signs of a consumer led economic recovery can be seen from the latest economic data for 2018 as reported by the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) in its recently released “Annual Statistical Bulletin for 2018”. The Bulletin showed that Iraq’s imports were up +18% in 2018, on the back of the recovery of +13% that began in 2017, following the severe declines from 2014-2016 which were caused by the twin shocks of the ISIS war and the collapse in oil prices crushing the economy, and with-it Iraq’s domestic demand for goods.

The revival in imports in 2017 and 2018 is likely to be a function of a recovery of government spending and a tentative recovery in consumer spending with the resultant increase in demand for imports- as the country is heavily reliant on imports to satisfy domestic demand. Importantly, the growth in imports of machinery and transport equipment argue well for the health of the underlying economic activity as can be seen from the chart below.

Iraq’s Imports 2010-2018

(Sources: Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Asia Frontier Capital)

Confirming this recovery, is the data on “New Vehicle Sales” as reported by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, which were up +60% in 2018 on the back of +35% increase in 2017. The recovery, while from a very low base, is nevertheless encouraging.

(Source: International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, Asia Frontier Capital)

The market’s action during the demonstrations has been mostly subdued as the curfews and the government’s shutting of the internet had a negative effect on activity and prices drifted lower with the market, as measured by the Rabee Securities RSISX USD Index (RSISUSD), declining by about −0.7% month-month as of the time of writing.

However, September ended on a promising note, as the market was up +0.8% for the month and down −4.1% for the year. Average daily turnover declined −7% month-month and displaced last month as the third lowest level over the last five years. Foreign investors continued to be net buyers, consistent with the trend of the last few months, although at lower total levels, in-line with the decline in total turnover as can be seen in the chart below.

Index of net foreign activity on the Iraq Stock Exchange

(Sources: Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX), Asia Frontier Capital)

During September, the market’s dynamics followed through with the improvement discussed last month as the banking sector continues to be led by the National Bank of Iraq (BNOI) which was up +39.1%, with other leading banks trailing behind, such as the Bank of Baghdad (BBOB) up +3.4%, Commercial Bank of Iraq (BCOI) up +2.1%, while Mansour Bank (BMNS) was down −1.5%. However, it should be noted that the rallies in the banks were all on low turnover in-line with the market’s overall exceptionally low turnover. The return of liquidity will determine the true direction of the group- whether sellers will overwhelm buyers sending prices lower, or if buyers will overwhelm sellers sending prices higher. The discriminating nature of the market, discussed here over the last two months, argues for the later.

Further reading:

 

Please click here to download Ahmed Tabaqchali’s full report in pdf format.

Mr Tabaqchali (@AMTabaqchali) is the CIO of the AFC Iraq Fund, and is an experienced capital markets professional with over 25 years’ experience in US and MENA markets. He is a non-resident Fellow at the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS), and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at AUIS. He is a board member of the Credit Bank of Iraq.

His comments, opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any fund or security or to adopt any investment strategy. It does not constitute legal or tax or investment advice. The information provided in this material is compiled from sources that are believed to be reliable, but no guarantee is made of its correctness, is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding Iraq, the region, market or investment.

The Baghdad Provincial Council on Sunday voted to dismiss governor Falah al-Jazairi amid protests in the Iraqi capital, according to local media and Anadolu Agency.

The 58-member council voted unanimously to remove al-Jazairi from his post, Al-Iraqiya television said.

According to the report, the provincial council will accept applications within days from candidates for the position.

The move came amid demonstrations in Baghdad and southern provinces against high unemployment and rampant corruption since October 1.

At least 100 people have been killed and more than 2,500 others injured in the protests, according to an anonymous official from Iraq’s Health Ministry.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi as well as improvements in living conditions and an end to corruption.

Discontent has been growing in Iraq in recent years due to rising unemployment and rampant corruption. Many in the country have limited access to basic services such as electricity and clean water, and unemployment is around 10%.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

By Bilal Wahab, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As Protests Explode, Iraq Must Get Serious About Reform

While Washington focuses on getting Baghdad to rein in militias and end its dependency on Iranian energy, Iraqi citizens have been seething about other matters.

Fueled by anger at the government’s rampant corruption and failure to deliver services or jobs, a series of spontaneous, leaderless protests erupted in Baghdad on October 1 and spread to a number of towns in central and southern Iraq.

Initially nonviolent, the demonstrations quickly drew lethal fire from security forces, which only enraged the protestors and increased their numbers.

Full report here.

(Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

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 Mustafa Habib.

Anti-government protests in Baghdad were led by the younger generation, one that has grown up under military rule, lived a more liberal life online and is now questioning the very basis of local, political culture.

More than a hundred deaths and over 4,000 wounded as a result of five days of anti-government protests, quite possibly the largest such demonstrations in Iraq since 2003. But this time the protests have been led by a different generation of Iraqis, those born in the 21st century, who have grown up with Justin Bieber and Facebook and in a country that was controlled by the US military for a large part of their youth. This is the generation of Iraqis who have tuned religious songs into rap tunes.

On October 1, thousands of young Iraqis – the vast majority of them male, only a handful of women have taken part – marched to Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, the scene of many such actions. There were also demonstrations in provinces further away, including in Dhi Qar, Basra, Diwaniyah and Wasit.

The demonstrators were motivated by a wide variety of things – anger over corruption, a lack of jobs, deficient state services – and there were even some conspiracy theories springing up about why the demonstrations were happening.

But one thing seemed certain to most onlookers: The youth of Iraq were on the streets for a just cause. As a nation, Iraq is mired in corruption, represented by politicians that seem mostly concerned about protecting their own interests, and dealing with a lack of state services, such as the provision of water and power, and damagingly high youth unemployment. Iraq is also caught in the middle of international tensions between two major allies, Iran and the US.

“I feel ashamed when I’m online, on social media, and I see the streets, schools and development in other countries all around us,” says Raed Latif, 19, emotional as he explains why he’s taking part in the protests. “Meanwhile in Iraq, I have nothing to be proud of. I love my country and I want to change the current state of things.”

Latif had been sneaking out of the house without telling his mother that he was joining the protests. One day last week, his mother found out and locked him inside, making the teenager promise not to go out. He snuck out again anyway.

The authorities have tried to stop the protestors from contacting one another and to quell reports of the demonstrations and counter actions by throttling the internet nationwide. But the young demonstrators have still managed to post and publish pictures and videos, and to communicate.

Besides using it as an organisational tool, one might also argue that this younger generation of Iraqis is also impacted the online world more than their elders – they’ve grown up with social media and electronic gaming, using sites like PUBG, or Player’s Unknown Battle Ground, a multi-player online game, to communicate with young people all over the world. Ideology and religion still matter to them – they live in Iraq, after all – but they’ve also been in touch with other social groups in other countries online, and it’s potentially given them a more liberal outlook than their parents.

There’s an interesting disconnect between older generations in Iraq and this younger one taking to the streets with clear demands for more jobs and better conditions as well as an end to corruption.

During a seminar held in Baghdad last month by a local civil society organisation, a doctor in his 50s started his speech criticising the “youth of today”. He said that younger Iraqis are fickle, they spend their mornings praising some individual on Facebook only to turn upon them by the evening. “This is a generation with no opinions and no steady moral compass,” he complained.

A younger member of the audience stood up to rebuke the doctor. “What you say is true,” the participant conceded. “But when we praise somebody in the morning and criticise them in the evening, that is because we are basing our reactions upon that person’s behaviour. At one stage, we feel his behaviour is good. At another, we feel it is bad.”

Younger Iraqis are different precisely because of such subjective attitudes, he argued. “We don’t have any affiliations,” the young man continued. “Our reactions are based on how an individual behaves, not who they are, or which tribe they belong to. We are not like those [the older generation] with partisan connections and old-fashioned ideologies, who don’t care whether a person is right or wrong, just who their connections are.”

After a young protestor was killed by security forces last Sunday, his friends searched his pockets for a mobile phone with which they could call the dead man’s parents. They found IQD1,000 note, equivalent to about one US dollar, and they also found a phone. It was very old mobile phone, filled with dozens of videos of the Baghdad demonstrations. When the other young men tried to call the dead man’s parents using the phone, they found they were unable to get through: There wasn’t even enough credit on the phone even to do this.

“What did we do to deserve this?,” mourned Abdul-Karim Khaqani, a 22-year-old demonstrator. “We are peaceful and unarmed. Why did they attack us with live ammunition? We will not forgive the politicians for this and if we fail this time, we will be back. We will protest again. We have nothing to lose,” he said, “other than our lives.”

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi protesters have lost their patience with what they say is decades of corruption and lack of services.

They’re demanding Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi resign – and the whole political system be overhauled.

Mahdi says there is ‘no magic solution’ and any progress will take time.

The government has announced a list of reforms to address some of the grievances.

But protesters are back on the streets and have attacked the headquarters of political parties and TV stations in Baghdad.

Police responded by using live rounds and tear gas.

At least 100 people have been killed in five days of protests.

Parliament had planned to hold an emergency session on Saturday – but it never happened.

But the Speaker of Parliament did make some promises…

Presenter:

  • Peter Dobbie

Guests:

  • Dlawer Ala-Aldeen President, Middle East Research Institute (MERI)
  • Renad Mansour Director, Iraq Initiative, Chatham University
  • Zeidon Alkinani Contributour, Open Democracy