Iraqis on the Streets to Protest Corrupt Government and Lack of Basic Services

"We demand the gov't imports 328 dairy cows & replace the parliament with them," tweets Hayder Al-Khoei, who shares this sign held at a protest in Iraq

“We demand the gov't imports 328 dairy cows & replace the parliament with them,” tweets Hayder Al-Khoei, who shares this sign held at a recent protest in Iraq. The cows are more useful, he adds.

Iraqis have been taking to the streets of the capital Baghdad and other cities across the country every Friday for the sixth week in a row to protest against widespread government corruption and lack of basic services. It all started when Iraqis had enough from the frequent power cuts, as summer temperatures hit 50 degrees Celsius.

The demonstrations reached a peak on Friday the 28th of August after the call of religious Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to his followers to join the anti-corruption protests. This increase was promising, however less people showed up last Friday.

@HayderSH says he saw an ‘obvious decrease’ in number:

Reportedly, 15,000 people demonstrated on August 28 in the capital Baghdad, and many other cities across the country, mainly focused in the southern provinces. The protesters carried Iraqi flags and held banners with critical slogans towards corrupt officials and politicians, such as ‘where is our money?’. Some also carried lights with the word ‘civil’ written in it, demanding their basic civil rights.

While the demands of the protesters began small, such as calling for improving the lack of electricity and clean water amid a heat wave of more than 50 degrees Celsius, they are now more complex. Protesters now urge Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to carry out major measures. The first demands were given a enhancement when Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on August 7 for Al-Abadi to take measures against the political corruption.

As a response, the minister proposed a set of political reforms and measures, such as the elimination of several senior government positions, the end of sectarian quotas in politics, and the elimination of corruption.

However, he only fired three deputy prime ministers and a few ministers, and ordered security forces to ease access to Baghdad's Green Zone, leaving the protesters distrustful and even more determined. On August 28, the Prime Minister came with another set of measures to ensure “social justice”.

With several Shitte clerics urging their followers to join the demonstrations, the protests had gained more weight. In a televised speech on August 24, Al-Sadr’s spokesperson read a statement saying:

“We announce to all people and to the Sadrists in particular the need to participate in protests this Friday in Baghdad.”

“The Sadrist participants should merge with the other protesters in a single, national Iraqi crucible.”

Even though the call resulted in attracting more people to protest, some also questioned Al-Sadr’s support, pointing out his political role as the leader of the political party, the Sadrist Movement, and wondering why he is not changing the political system from the inside out.

The anti-corruption protesters got a lot of support on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Also the military, who has been instructed not to crackdown on the protests, showed support towards the demonstrators.

The anti-corruption movement has gotten Sunnis and Shiites together, with some people even calling for a complete political reform and the establishment of a secular state.

Also check out our on going coverage on Global Voices Checkdesk

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