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Iraq parliament postpones sessions until protests end

October 21, 2019 at 3:00 pm

A parliamentary session at the Parliament Building in Baghdad, Iraq on 3 September 2018 [Haydar Karaalp/Anadolu Agency]

Iraq’s parliament has announced that it is postponing the holding of its sessions until the end of the protests that have swept through the country in recent weeks, repealing the parliament’s former decision that it will meet after the Shia Arbaeen pilgrimage ends.

On Saturday, the parliament’s Legal Committee confirmed that the House of Representatives will be holding its first session on 26 October, the day after demonstrations are due to come to an end.

Sources from the Iraqi parliament informed the UK-based news site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that there exist “deep differences within the legislative authority” due to relations between the Presidency and the Parliament and their methods of dealing with the protestors. The source also mentioned “the attempt to absorb the wave of protests without coming up with real decisions, [in order to] change the reality or the image of Iraq’s political and economic [situation].”

The source detailed the extent of the divisions within the Iraqi political body, revealing that “some deputies want to question the prime minister and his government, and dismiss those involved in the suppression of demonstrators.” It added that the questioning of the government has been met with “strong rejection” by some blocs, most prominently the parliamentary bloc which represents the political wing of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) – consisting of the country’s Shia militias – funded and backed by Iran.

READ: 61 Iraqi officials sacked over protests

Member of Parliament Abdullah Al-Kharbit stated, however, that the primary reason for the postponement of the parliamentary sessions is “because the parliament wants to listen to the people before holding its session.”

The announcement of the postponement comes after weeks of protests throughout the country against rampant unemployment and extensive government corruption, with the authorities’ response being a brutal crackdown on the protestors. Since the protests began on 1 October, hundreds have been killed and thousands injured, with videos of government forces using live ammunition having gone viral on social media.

Activists used social media to reveal their intention to resume protests against the Baghdad government and the “corrupt” political regime on 25 October. The leader of the Sadrist Movement in Iraq, Muqtada Al-Sadr, on Saturday evening voiced his support for the upcoming demonstrations.

READ: Iraq’s Al-Sadr announces support for 25 October protests