Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s Cabinet announced a slew of reforms early on Sunday in a bid to curb massive anti-government protests that have claimed over 100 lives over the last few days, AFP reported. Around 1,600 people have been injured. The protests are being held against rising unemployment and corruption in the country.
The reforms included land distributions, military enlistment and increased welfare stipends for needy families. The government also said it would build large market complexes and boost benefits for those without work. According to the World Bank, youth unemployment in Iraq has touched 25%.
The Iraqi Government held an “extraordinary” Cabinet session early on Sunday to decide on new measures to placate the protestors. A human rights group called the Observatory for Human Rights said earlier in the day that the toll in the protests has reached 105.
Fresh clashes took place outside Baghdad, the capital city, early on Sunday, Al Jazeera reported. “What we’ve seen and heard here in Baghdad in the early hours of the morning is clashes between security forces and protesters in the outskirts,” an Al Jazeera reporter told the news network. “Beyond the protest movement, there is also a political crisis brewing. The year-old government of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi is facing its biggest challenge yet.”
The news network said that an emergency Parliament session called for Saturday had earlier been cancelled. The Speaker of the Parliament Salim al-Jabouri then issued a statement backing the protestors.
On Saturday, unidentified gunmen had attacked the offices of several television channels in Baghdad. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said masked gunmen stormed into its office in Baghdad, attacked some employees and smashed equipment before fleeing. Gunmen also attacked the offices of Dajla and NRT news channels in Baghdad.
On Friday, Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr demanded that the government quit, AFP reported. Sadr, whose bloc is the largest in Parliament, said the government should resign and United Nations-supervised elections should be held in order to prevent more deaths during protests. He said he could “not keep silent” as Iraqi blood was being shed.
These are the largest protests in the country since Mahdi became prime minister a year ago.
Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.