Iraq approves reform package to address protests
By Khalid al-Taie
Iraq's parliament held its first session Tuesday (October 8th) after a week of anti-government protests that left dozens dead and sparked a political crisis the country's president said required a "national dialogue".
More than 200 parliamentarians arrived for an extraordinary session called by speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, defying expectations that they would not meet quorum, AFP reported.
MPs hosted several ministers to discuss the demonstrations, which erupted one week ago in Baghdad before spreading to the south.
In response to the protests, parliament approved an initial reform package to include the immediate release of all protesters who did not infringe on public property and the compensation of the families of those killed in the protests, including security forces personnel.
It also approved the establishment of an unemployment fund, and a development fund to help graduates and unemployed youth find jobs, which will be funded through deductions in senior government officials' salaries.
Additionally, families without a fixed income will be provided with a monthly salary.
It was also decided that all government and security agency employees whose employment contracts were terminated will be re-hired.
Providing job opportunities
The reform package, which includes 20 decisions, focuses on creating solutions to the problem of unemployment -- a key demand of the demonstrators, said Iraqi MP Faleh al-Issawi, who serves on the parliamentary security and defence committee.
"We must work to provide these young people with jobs that will provide them with a decent livelihood," he told Diyaruna.
The reform package "addresses positively demands to reform services, fight corruption and improve conditions for citizens", he said, with an emphasis on the poor and those who suffered from forced displacement and the destruction of their areas by terrorists.
Parliament focused on providing the necessary allocations to restore stability in liberated areas and financial grants for the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and to families of persons who have gone missing or disappeared during the period of the terrorists’ control, al-Issawi said.
Additionally, a project to build medium-cost housing for those in need will be launched, he said.
The problems that have accumulated over the years "cannot be fixed immediately and time is needed to enact legislation and take administrative decisions to resolve them", he said.
"However, we in parliament and the government are continuing to fulfill all of the demonstrators' demands," said al-Issawi.
"We are coping with great challenges and all available means and measures should be taken to meet all constitutional and legal demands and to reassure the citizens that their voices have been heard," he said.
The first package of reforms has been approved, he said, noting that a second package will be approved in the next parliamentary session.
'Tragic loss of life'
Meanwhile, parliament fully supports the demonstrators’ right to peacefully express their demands, al-Issawi said, noting that the fall of casualties and the acts of sabotage that accompanied the demonstrations "are in no way allowed".
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned deadly violence during the protests in Iraq and called on the country's government to "exercise maximum restraint", AFP reported.
In a call with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Pompeo "condemned the recent violence in Iraq and noted that those who violated human rights should be held accountable", the State Department said in a Tuesday statement.
"The secretary lamented the tragic loss of life over the past few days and urged the Iraqi government to exercise maximum restraint," the statement said.
"Pompeo reiterated that peaceful public demonstrations are a fundamental element of all democracies, and emphasized that there is no place for violence in demonstrations, either by security forces or protestors."