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International round-up: Iraqi protesters want system change

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People have joined angry protests in Iraq's capital to demand an end to a corrupt and sectarian political system
Issue 2821
Picture of protests in Iraq with a person wearing a mask with her fist raised in the air back in 2019

A woman chants slogans during anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq in 2019 (Picture: PA)

Thousands of people joined protests in Iraq’s capital city Baghdad last Friday demanding an end to the corrupt and sectarian political system. It came after deadly fighting between rival Shia Muslim factions vying for control.

Gun fighting between supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and those of Iraq’s once‑dominant Shia factions left at least 30 people dead earlier in the week.  Sadr’s coalition formed the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament after elections last October. But the Shia factions of the Coordination Framework (CF) blocked it from forming a government.

When Sadr announced his resignation from politics last week, his supporters stormed government offices and fought back after being attacked by the CF’s militias. The fighting is a crisis for Iraq’s sectarian political system—imposed by the US after invading in 2003—which apportions political office to religious and ethnic groups. 

A mass protest movement in 2019 demanded an end to this system. Sadr has tried to tap into anger at the system but also to use it to his own ends.

Nick Clark

Rulers’ revenge in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the joyous people’s uprising in July sent waves of terror through the political elite and beyond. But now the rich are turning the tables on the poor.

Last week, the hated International Monetary Fund (IMF) signed off on an initial agreement to finance the “restructuring” of the country’s debts. The government announced an interim austerity budget to meet the IMF conditions.

And, the hated former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa returned to the country after nearly two months on the run. The new budget will raise taxes that hit the poor hardest, privatise state utilities, and allow prices to carry on soaring.

Food inflation is now running at around 90 percent and those who get social support will barely be able to afford half a loaf of bread using their whole allowance. Sri Lankan activist Ahilan Kadirgamar said the combined policy was torture, akin to “economic waterboarding”.

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