Iraq

Baghdad governor quits amid demonstrations in Iraqi capital

The governor of the Iraqi capital province of Baghdad, Fallah al-Jazairi, has stepped down in the wake of demonstrations against corruption, unemployment and poor public services in the country.

On Sunday, members of the Provincial Council voted in favor of accepting Jazairi’s resignation, and he quit his post.

“Acceptance of applications for candidates for the post is open for five days,” an unnamed source in the Council said.

The Baghdad Provincial Council voted to elect Jazairi as the governor of Baghdad during a session on December 22, 2018.

The Council elected Jazairi to replace his outgoing predecessor, Atwan al-Atwani, who had won a seat in the parliament.

Iraq has been rocked by days of protests. Security forces have responded using water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets. Several protesters have been killed and dozens more wounded.

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet issued a series of reforms in response to the protests.

The cabinet issued a decree with more than a dozen planned reforms, including land distributions, military enlistment and increased welfare stipends for needy families, AFP news agency reported.

On Friday, Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi vowed to implement plans to generate housing, employment, and health “within a time frame.” He supported the protesters’ demands, promising that the legislature would work on combating corruption, which he said was “as dangerous as terrorism.”

Earlier the same day, Iraq’s most prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged Iraqi security forces and protesters to avoid violence, expressing sorrow over some sporadic unrest that has led to several casualties.

“It is sorrowful there have been so many deaths, casualties and destruction” from clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in recent days, he said in a letter.

In the letter, read out by his representative Ahmed al-Safi during a sermon in the holy city of Karbala, the top cleric urged all parties to avoid violence.

He also criticized officials and political sides for failing to meet the demands of the people to fight corruption, urging them to take action “before it’s too late.”

“Lawmakers hold the biggest responsibility for what is happening,” Ayatollah Sistani was quoted as saying.

The ongoing unrest in Iraq came as millions of Shia Muslims were preparing for mourning rituals on Arba’een, which marks 40 days after the anniversary of Ashura, the day of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

Imam Hussein was martyred in a battle with the massive army of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya, commonly known as Yazid I, in the desert plains of Karbala along with his 72 companions approximately 14 centuries ago, after refusing allegiance to the tyrant caliph.

The occasion has found additional significance in recent years as it turned into a rallying cry for the campaign against Takfiri terrorists, who have frequently targeted the pilgrims.

The pilgrims show their commitment to the Shia imam by walking tens of miles, a large number of them barefoot. Mourners clad in black walk toward Karbala, which lies 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, to commemorate Arba’een, which in Arabic means forty and falls on October 19 this year.

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