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

Iraq has been engulfed in violent protests in the past few weeks as soldiers fired live rounds into crowds.

But this has only entrenched the protesters’ position as they demand a complete overhaul of the political system.

The government has cut off access to the internet, as it says that its youth are being influenced by what they read.

But the protesters have found other means to get around the online silence.

Al Jazeera‘s Natasha Ghoneim reports from Baghdad:

Press Statement by US Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo (pictured), on the situation in Iraq:

The United States welcomes any serious efforts made by the Government of Iraq to address the ongoing problems in Iraqi society. The Government of Iraq should listen to the legitimate demands made by the Iraqi people who have taken to the streets to have their voices heard.

The United States is closely monitoring the situation and from the beginning we have called on all sides to reject violence. The Government of Iraq’s investigation into the violence in early October lacked sufficient credibility and the Iraqi people deserve genuine accountability and justice.

As the efforts announced by President Salih begin, the recently imposed severe restrictions on freedom of the press and of expression must be relaxed. Press freedom is inherent to democratic reform. The U.S. government continues to support Iraqi institutions, the Iraqi people, and Iraq’s security, stability, and sovereignty.

(Source: US State Dept)

By John Lee.

Asiacell Iraq has reported stable revenues of QAR 3.3 billion for the nine-month period, and a growing customer base, up 6% to 14 million customers at 9M 2019.

In its results for the first nine months of 2019, the company said:

“While EBITDA margin was strong at 45%, EBITDA was down 8% to QAR 1.5 billion at 9M 2019, due to an increase in costs related to improvement in network quality, network expansion, and enhanced sales and marketing activities associated with the increase in customer base and data traffic. “

(Source: Ooredoo)

(Picture: Faruk Mustafa Rasool, Chairman of Asiacell)

By John Lee.

Asiacell Iraq has reported stable revenues of QAR 3.3 billion for the nine-month period, and a growing customer base, up 6% to 14 million customers at 9M 2019.

In its results for the first nine months of 2019, the company said:

“While EBITDA margin was strong at 45%, EBITDA was down 8% to QAR 1.5 billion at 9M 2019, due to an increase in costs related to improvement in network quality, network expansion, and enhanced sales and marketing activities associated with the increase in customer base and data traffic. “

(Source: Ooredoo)

(Picture: Faruk Mustafa Rasool, Chairman of Asiacell)

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

Civil society activists and journalists leave Baghdad in fear of being arrested

On Oct. 9, an Iraqi journalist left Baghdad for Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, after hearing that his name was on a list prepared by the Iraqi government for the arrest of journalists and civil society activists.

“I had to travel to Erbil until things calm down,” the journalist, who appeared on satellite television, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “The government is launching a tight crackdown and arresting anyone who wrote, supported and spoke about the protests.”

He continued, “In Erbil also, the authorities arrest dissidents who criticize them or talk about corruption and freedoms, but this is a temporary stop for those like me who escaped the danger in Baghdad.”

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The decision by the Iraqi authorities to cut the internet in an attempt to thwart demonstraters is reported to have cost the economy nearly a billion dollars.

According to AFP, from the second day of unrest, the internet was restricted and the day after authorities ordered it cut entirely; a fortnight later, social media websites are still blocked.

More here.

(Source: AFP)

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)

MAG teams up with Facebook to reduce casualties from ISIS mines in Iraq

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has launched an innovative project with Facebook and the US government to help people in northern Iraq learn how to stay safe from the landmines and unexploded bombs left behind after years of war.

The initiative uses Facebook’s advertising tools to deliver simple graphics to at-risk groups describing how to recognise dangers, how to stay safe if an explosive device is discovered, and how to alert the authorities to the problem.

The pilot project, which will run until November 2019, will target users living in Ninewa, a governorate in northern Iraq that is home to 2.5 million people.

Ninewa, and Mosul, its capital city, were heavily affected by the conflict between the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and Iraqi government forces. More than three years of conflict had a devastating impact on the area: more than 125,000 square kilometres of the governorate are now believed to be contaminated with improvised landmines and other explosive devices. Many landmines manufactured by ISIS are sensitive enough to be triggered by a child but powerful enough to disable a tank.

The initiative aims to reach at least 85 per cent of Facebook users in Ninewa—an estimated 1.4 million people—and will be supported by MAG teams working on the ground. A dedicated website (www.staysafefrommines.com) also contains essential information on how to stay safe from mines in three languages. The messages have already reached over 800,000 people in the region since the initiative launched in September.

Since 2016, MAG has removed more than 17,000 explosive items from Ninewa—many found in and around homes, schools, and health facilities. MAG teams have given risk education sessions to more than 175,000 people, teaching them how to recognise, avoid, and report explosives. These sessions are typically delivered in person by MAG staff. However, with tens of thousands of families continuing to return home after the fall of ISIS, there has been a need to develop a way to provide life-saving education to larger audiences, more quickly.

This need was the foundation of the collaboration between MAG, the US government and Facebook.

Portia Stratton, Country Director for MAG in Iraq, said:

Almost half of landmine victims are children, so it’s important as many people as possible learn how to keep their families safe until we can clear the danger.

“Our staff usually give lessons in-person, but that means the reach is limited and more costly. Using Facebook to get to hundreds of thousands of at-risk people via their phones could have a real impact in helping reduce the casualties from these devastating devices.

A spokesperson for Facebook said:

 “Facebook is honoured to play a part in helping reduce landmine casualties in Iraq. With so many now using Facebook around the world, ads are another way to share urgent information with communities who might be at risk. We hope that these messages in Iraq could one day save a life.”

Sol Black, Program Manager for Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen Emergency Response at the US State Department said:

As part of our constant search for new and innovative ways to keep people safe from explosive hazards left by ISIS in Iraq, the United States Department of State is proud to partner with MAG and Facebook to deliver targeted risk education to Iraqis living in areas most heavily impacted by improvised explosive devices, landmines, and other explosive hazards left by ISIS.

“By leveraging an existing communications platform already used by the majority of Iraqis, this Department of State-facilitated initiative uses an innovative approach to deliver life-saving information to those Iraqis most likely to encounter dangerous explosive hazards.

MAG is a global landmine clearance charity that’s helped over 18 million people in 68 countries rebuild their lives and livelihoods after war.

We have worked in Iraq since 1992 to make land safe for populations affected by decades of conflict.

(Source: MAG)

Internet access has been cut off across much of Iraq including the capital Baghdad with connectivity falling below 70%, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said, amid renewed anti-government protests that turned violent and spread nationwide.

Earlier on Wednesday social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as messaging application WhatsApp all appeared to be have been disabled across Iraq except in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region which has a separate internet infrastructure.

The services were only accessible by using a VPN, which effectively disguises the location of a device.

Graft is widespread and basic services such as power and water are lacking.

A government statement on Tuesday said 40 members of the security forces were among those injured and blamed “groups of inciting riots” for the violence.

At least six members of security forces were injured in Baghdad on Wednesday and five in Nassiriya.

The United Nations on Wednesday expressed concern over the violence and urged calm, with the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert reaffirming in a statement the right to protest.

The US Embassy in Baghdad urged all sides to avoid violence.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

By Nick O’Connell, Partner, Al Tamimi & Co.

This briefing note was originally published by lus laboris and is republished with permission by Iraq Business News.

In Iraq the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has had limited impact.

There is currently no modern data protection law in Iraq, and there is accordingly no data protection authority.

There are Iraqi law considerations that could be material in the context of considering personal data processing activities, either in an HR context or more broadly.

These have not been prepared with GDPR in mind. They range from general provisions protecting privacy or providing for remedies where someone causes damage to another.

Depending on the circumstances of a data breach, it may be prudent to consider notifying law enforcement authorities and affected individuals, although there is no generally applicable legal obligation to do so.