Monday, April 27, 2020

Editorial: Protests continue in Iraq

The failed state of Iraq continues to fail the Iraqi people.  NRT reports on a protest that took place Sunday:

Former political prisoners protested in front of the Amna Suraka National Museum in Sulaimani on Sunday (April 26) saying that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had mismanaged their benefits and demanding an intervention by the federal government.
Like many people who suffered under the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein, former prisoners convicted of political offenses in the Kurdistan Region receive monthly payments from the KRG. As part of the pension and salary reform bill passed by the Kurdistan Parliament in January, some previous beneficiaries were struck off the list.

On Sunday, the protesters expressed two main demands. First, that the KRG reinstate those who were stripped of their benefits by the reform bill. Second, that they start receiving benefits directly from the federal government, rather than through the KRG.

That's Sulaimani.  It's not the only place protests are currently taking place in Iraq.  Terry Evans (THE MILITANT) reports:

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters defied a government-imposed curfew in the southern city of Nasiriyah and took to the streets in recent weeks to demand a halt to restrictions on their gatherings. They also condemned the April 5 assassination of Anwar Jassem Mhawwas, a leader of anti-government demonstrations there.
Large numbers of workers and youth have joined protests in Baghdad, the capital, and several other cities since last October, but many suspended their actions at the end of March after the government clamped down on any gatherings, using the spread of coronavirus as a pretext. The protesters have been fighting for political rights, the fall of the government, jobs, water and electricity, and a halt to Tehran’s and Washington’s interference in the country.
A cadre of protesters have maintained encampments in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, in Diwaniyah, Basra and Nasiriyah. They are determined to be well placed to restart their hard-fought struggle, which attracted tens of thousands of working people.
“I will not abandon my dream of a nation that suits us and provides us with a dignified life,” student Hassan Abdulkarim told Asharq Al-Awsat in Tahrir Square.

A Tweet from earlier this month regarding Nasiriyah protests:

From the sit-in in southern Nasiriyah / Habboubi, logistical preparations have been completed to start the third round of decisive protests to pressure the international community into holding early elections to protect democracy in #Iraq
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And there are protests in Basra Province. SHAFAAQ NEWS reports:

A group of Iraqi workers working in the British "security CRG" company in West Qurna Field (1) in Basra Governorate renewed their protest on Sunday  in front of the company's headquarters in al- Zubair district west of the province, in protest against the termination of their services by the company and firing them without notice.
“The protest was renewed today in front of the company’s headquarters, for firing (49) workers under the pretext of the spread of Corona's epidemic and comes as a result of the non- response to our demands despite our appeals to the Iraqi MPs of Basra Governorate in the Oil and Energy Committee and Basra Governor and our fear that the fate of (49) the family would be hunger and poverty due to ending our contacts we have families and we do not have another source of income,” One of the protesters, Muhammad Al-Shammari told Shafaq News reporter.
Iraq is a failed state.  The government doesn't serve the people which is why the people protest.  All this takes place now as the coronavirus confronts countries around the world.

The coronavirus faces a great challenge in Iraq: With only 0.8 doctors and 1.4 beds per thousand people, Hospitals, which aren’t up to the pressure of “regular” patients, certainly can’t deal with the spread of the virus that is killing thousands of people, or with those suspected of being infected. 

Zvi Bar'el (HAARETZ) offers:

According to official reports, there are about 1,500 patients throughout the country, a bogus figure since testing is nil and the ability to pinpoint the locations of infected people is almost nonexistent. Not to mention the more than 1.5 million refugees living in Iraq, without any sort of documentation or supervision and no access to medical centers.

The devastated health care infrastructure is not a recent challenge. It started back in the first and second Gulf wars, the sanctions on Iraq for more than 12 years, between 1990 and 2003, and the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces, during which medical personnel fled or lost their jobs as part of the purge of Saddam Hussein loyalists.                                                     
Later, when Iraq was partially occupied by the Islamic State, hospitals in the south and west of the country came into the hands of ISIS forces that led to the flight of thousands of doctors and nurses and to the destruction of the physical health care infrastructure. To this day, the Iraqi government has been unable to rehabilitate much of the healthcare system. The state budget for 2019 allocated about 18 percent to defense and only about 3 percent to health care.                                                   

Bar'el misses the 'brain drain.'  That's after the occupation began -- US-led occupation -- in 2003 and it's medical professionals fleeing due to threats.  The brain drain took place repeatedly in Iraq long before ISIS rose.  Here', for example, is a 2006 report on the brain drain by Jonathan Steele.

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