Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi on Tuesday November 5th hailed the “right” protests nationwide, saying they addressed problems that have existed since 2003, the state news agency reported on November 6th.
The year 2003 marked the Iraq War that started with a one-month military invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition over allegations of the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle Eastern country. Former President Saddam Hussein was overthrown in the course of the fighting.
“Many of the political, security and social mistakes have not been correctly and radically treated,” Abdul Mahdi said in a cabinet meeting, Iraqi News Agency reported.
Citing clashes between security forces and protesters who have taken to streets since the start of October over dire economic and political conditions, he said that some “rioters wear military clothes to push the security forces to confrontation.”
The prime minister said that some rioters used protesters as a human shield for the purposes of “vandalism, and the burning of houses,” affirming that such acts cannot be counted as part of the right of peaceful demonstration.
Praising protests, Abdul Mahdi said that the pressure brought to bear by the protests helped many of the important but postponed projects to be accepted and passed smoothly by relevant authorities, but condemned calls to suspend the operation of schools and universities. “The right to education cannot be disrupted, and the sectors of education cannot be halted under any circumstances,” he said.
He urged protesters to use the “multiple methods of opinion expression without disrupting [daily] life,” warning against the harm caused to the state and people by the disruption of the oil sector.
“It is not possible to resort to borrowing again in the event of the disruption of the oil sector,” he said, adding that the country is required to pay its foreign debts according to timelines that cannot be violated.
As protesters have called for his resignation, Abdul Mahdi reiterated his readiness to meet the demands on condition that political parties agree on an alternative, in order to prevent a “power vacuum,” CNN Arabic reported.
“There are demands to amend the constitution and replace the electoral commission, and this cannot be [done] without the presence of a government,” he said, according to the above sources, adding that “resorting to the constitution and the legal contexts is better than facing the unknown.
“Many countries make constitutional amendments in accordance with staged requirements,” he said, noting that these amendments can lead up to a change in the “nature of the political system and changing electoral law as a whole.”
The protests in Iraq were triggered by allegations of political corruption and have called for the provision of job opportunities and of services nationwide. Clashes between security forces and protesters since the start of the demonstrations have caused the deaths of over 260 Iraqis, according to media reports. Official data on the number of victims in the ongoing protests are still unavailable.
The US Embassy in Iraq on Wednesday condemned the “cycle of violence” currently occurring in Iraq and voiced concerns over reports about the killing and kidnapping of peaceful protesters.
Eyewitnesses said that masked men in government vehicles arrested a number of protesters in Baghdad on Tuesday, media reported citing the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, a non-government organisation. Dozens of Iraqis were reported killed in clashes with security forces in protests calling for economic and political reforms.