A mass protest movement has forced the Iraqi prime minister to resign.
The parliament accepted Adel Abdul Mahdi’s resignation on Sunday following weeks of large-scale, bloody protests in Baghdad and cities across the south of the country.
But demonstrators have vowed to stay on the streets, saying Abdul Mahdi’s resignation is not enough.
“The prime minister’s resignation is only a drop in the ocean of our demands,” said Dania, a 20-year-old IT student in the capital Baghdad.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets as part of a mass anti-government movement that began at the start of October.
They want an end to poverty and unemployment—and the fall of the corrupt, sectarian system imposed by the US after its 2003 invasion.
Protests in Baghdad have centred on the city’s Tahrir Square, with demonstrators occupying main roads and bridges in the city centre. They have also blockaded routes into the Green Zone—the militarised part of the city, closed off to ordinary people, where government offices are located.
Protesters in other cities such as Basra and Nasirya have also blocked roads, targeting the south’s lucrative oil industry. Despite vast oil revenues, ordinary people in Iraq suffer high unemployment and low wages.
Demonstrators in the city of Najaf have also torched the Iranian consulate there at least twice. Protesters are angry that the Iranian regime has used the corrupt system—installed by the West—to become hugely influential in Iraqi politics.
The Iraqi state responded to the movement with a bloody crackdown involving several massacres.
More than 400 people have been killed during the demonstrations since the beginning of October. Security forces have attacked protests with live ammunition, as well as tear gas and rubber bullets.
Some of the bloodiest days came last week when some 65 protesters were killed in Baghdad, Nasiriya and Najaf.
They ended with Abdul Mahdi announcing his resignation, after he was called upon to quit by Iraq’s top cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The Iraqi parliament will now undergo a prolonged period of trying to nominate a new prime minister who can form a government.
Iraqi politicians and their supporters in either the West or Iran will hope to use the process to gain influence—both are vying for control of Iraq and its oil industry.
Yet the protests have remained non-sectarian and not pro?West. Demonstrations against the Shia Muslim dominated government have taken place in the Shia majority south.
And students in the Sunni?majority northern city Mosul held a mass prayer and moment’s silence for protesters killed in the south.
Instead the protests keep their anger focussed on the entire system.
Dania said, “We won’t go back home until the prime minister’s resignation triggers the parliament to be dissolved and early elections are held so that all the political parties and militias in power can be removed.”
Massacre of Iran fuel protesters
A wave of protests over fuel prices has reportedly become the largest scale unrest in Iran since the revolution of 1979.
Some 200,000 people have been involved demonstrations which started last month.
Protests began after the government announced a major hike in petrol prices. It was an attempt to make ordinary people pay for an economic crisis caused by US sanctions and government corruption.
Protesters have blocked traffic by parking cars on major roads on mass. They have also fought battles with Iranian security forces, who have shot at them with live ammunition.
Some 7,000 people have been arrested on the protests and at least 160 people killed—though some estimates say the death toll is much higher.
Hebron land grab
Israel has announced a major attack on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, with plans for a new settlement in Hebron.
Israel’s defence minister Naftali Bennett—leader of the far right Jewish Home party—announced the new settlement. Its construction would mean the demolition of the Palestinian market in Hebron’s old city.
Hebron is the sight of an intense struggle against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
A handful of Israeli settlers have attempted to take control of the area by occupying buildings overlooking the market.