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Western threats split protests in Iraq

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Issue 2689
Anti-corruption protests in Iraq last year
Anti-corruption protests in Iraq last year (Pic: PA)

Tens of thousands of people marched in Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Friday of last week to demand the withdrawal of US soldiers from the country.

Iraqi cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr organised Friday’s demonstration after the US assassinated top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad earlier this month.

The killing threatened to spark a major war, and the US then moved thousands of soldiers to the region.

Sadr has led resistance movements against the US following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He has a mass following, particularly among the poor.

Yet he also leads the largest political block in Iraq’s parliament.


And last Saturday he abandoned a longer-running, more independent movement against poverty and corruption.

Iraqi security forces attacked that movement’s protest camps in Baghdad and other cities last week as Sadr’s supporters withdrew.

The movement in Iraq has often focused on Iranian influence in Iraq’s politics and oil industry.

But it is also a challenge to the corrupt political system installed by the US.

The crackdown shows how threats by the West can be used to divide and attack movements for real change in the Middle East.

Action in Indonesia over law

Protests over labour laws are hotting up in Indonesia, with trade unionists vowing to fight the new “Omnibus law”.

President Joko Widodo claimed his new bill will create jobs and increase investment.

Workers say the plans will cut severance pay and the hourly minimum wage, and scrap sanctions against firms that fail to provide health insurance.

Thousands of trade unionists protested against the law outside the House of Representatives in the capital Jakarta on Monday of last week.

Said Iqbal, Indonesian Worker Union Confederation president, said the bill “gives no protection to the future of workers, prospective workers and young people who will enter the workforce”.

“We will continue to protest,” he said.

The draft law has yet to be made public, and trade unionists have promised strikes and protests against it. Iqbal said a court challenge to the law was also planned.

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