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Iraqis march for economic reform

Press TV – March 4, 2011
Security forces stand guard as people protest in Baghdad over corruption, unemployment and poor public services.

Thousands of Iraqi protesters have taken to the streets in main cities across the country, demanding economic reform and better living conditions.

Protest rallies over corruption, unemployment and poor government services were held in Baghdad, Basra, Nineveh, Anbar and Salahuddin following the Friday Prayers.

Unlike other demonstrations sweeping the Arab world, Iraqi protesters are seeking reforms, but not regime change.

“We live in a country rich with oil, yet we don’t have jobs,” demonstrators said. “The oil [is] for the people and not for thieves.”

They also chanted “Liar, Liar, Nouri al-Maliki” while carrying banners reading, “Where has the people’s money gone?” and “Yes to democracy and the protection of freedom.”

In the capital, where several thousands of demonstrators have already gathered in the city’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, authorities have banned traffic across the city, forcing protesters to walk several kilometers to the square.

Iraqi authorities have also deployed thousands of security forces to Baghdad streets and protesters were frisked three times before reaching the square.

There were no reports of clashes between protesters and security forces.

Some Iraqis have named Friday’s rallies as the “Day of Regret,” to mark one year since the parliamentary elections. It took politicians more than nine months to form a new government after the poll on March 7, 2010, and even now, several major positions, including the ministers of interior, defense and planning, are unfilled.

Last week, at least 20 people were killed and more than 130 others were injured after Iraqi security forces attacked protesters.

Four top Iraqi officials, three southern provincial governors and Baghdad’s mayor, resigned following mass protests on February 25.

In response to nationwide protests, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki called an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday and gave government ministers a 100-day ultimatum to deliver results and eliminate corruption or face dismissal.

“Mr. Maliki specified a 100-day period after which an assessment of the work of the government and ministries will be carried out to find out the level of their individual success or failure in performing their jobs,” AFP quoted the statement as saying.

The Iraqi premier has also introduced measures to combat graft, cut politician salaries and dedicate more money to providing food for the poor in an attempt to contain protests.

March 4, 2011 - Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Solidarity and Activism

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