Episode
August 18, 2015

Iraq’s summer of protest

Despite PM Haider al-Abadi’s reform package, Iraqis continue to demand change.
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For the past six weeks, thousands of Iraqis across the streets of Baghdad, Basra, Najaf and other cities have been protesting electricity cuts amid soaring temperatures, rampant corruption and the government’s mismanagement of basic services. The protestors, many of them young secular Iraqis, want government officials to be held accountable.

Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, put his weight behind the protests and urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, to get tougher on corruption and to address the demands of the protestors.

PM Abadi responded with a package of sweeping political reforms that include: the elimination of the three deputy prime ministers and three vice presidents posts, reducing the budget for personal security for senior officials, reopening corruption cases, removing sectarian quotas from senior government posts, and combining government ministries to increase efficiency and accountability. Iraq’s parliament approved the reforms and Ayatollah Sistani welcomed them as a way “to achieve some social justice”. The United Nations human rights office also hailed the move as a “concrete step” to reinforce the rule of law, improve governance and respect for human rights.

The government has acted on some of its promises. On Sunday, the PM reduced his Cabinet from 33 members to 22, terminated a few ministerial posts and merged some ministries to create more efficiency. Despite this, however, the protests have not stopped. Iraqis have remained in the streets calling for faster implementation of the reforms and demanding changes to the country’s judiciary. 

So will this wave of protests help realise the change so many Iraqis have been searching for? We discuss today at 19:30 GMT.
 
In this episode of The Stream we speak with: 

Hayder al-Shakeri @HayderSH
Youth activist

Mustafa Salim @Mustafa_salimb
Reporter, The Washington Post

Sajad Jiyad @SajadJiyad
Managing Director, Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies

Zaid al-Ali @zalali
Author, “The struggle for Iraq’s future: How corruption, incompetence and sectarianism have undermined democracy”

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 
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