Sadr’s call for delay in Iraqi government formation deemed impractical

Protesters hand over job requests to government employees in Basra. (Reuters)
Updated 20 July 2018
0

Sadr’s call for delay in Iraqi government formation deemed impractical

  • Mass protests have been sweeping the southern provinces since July 8 as anger grows over a serious lack of basic services, such as electricity and drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty
  • At least 12 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded, most of them policemen

BAGHDAD: Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, whose political bloc won Iraq’s election on May 12, on Thursday called on all politicians to delay efforts to form a new government until the demands of protesters seeking better services in the south of the country are met.

“The winning political parties in the election have to suspend all political dialogues for forming coalitions until they meet protesters’ rightful demands,” he posted on Twitter. It was his first public comment on the unrest sweeping the south.

However, analysts and even Sadr’s Shiite partners said that suspending the talks is “impractical” and will not help to address the demands of protesters.

“We must expedite the formation of a service government that operates according to clear programs and time limits if we want to meet the demands of the demonstrators,” said a prominent Shiite leader, and one of Sadr’s allies, who asked to remain anonymous.

“There are constitutional deadlines that we must abide by. Parliament must meet immediately after the ratification of the election results to choose the president and complete the steps to form a government.

“It is illogical to wait until the demands of protesters are met because most of these demands need months or years to turn into reality.”

Sadr’s call is seen by many analysts and politicians as an attempt to capitalize on the wave of protests, especially as protesters in Basra and several other provinces already rejected offers made by him to organize mass demonstrations led by his followers.

“There is no contradiction between meeting the demands of the demonstrators and continuing negotiations to form a government,” said Ahmed Jallil, an Iraqi analyst.

“Sadr just feels that he is not controlling the scene this time, after his previous offers were rejected, and his rivals have come close to forming a coalition away from him. So the best way to regain control is by riding the wave of the demonstrations.”

Mass protests have been sweeping the southern provinces since July 8 as anger grows over a serious lack of basic services, such as electricity and drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty. 

The demonstrations turned violent when protesters stormed Najaf airport and the headquarters of several oil companies in the oil-hub city of Basra, and set fires in many governmental and partisan buildings.

At least 12 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded, most of them policemen, according to the Iraqi Commission of Human Rights.

The demonstrations are the latest results of the unrest that has plagued the country since the announcement in May of the preliminary results of the parliamentary national elections.

Most Iraqi political leaders have backed the protesters in their “legal” demands.


Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2018
0

Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

  • Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016

VIRGINIA BEACH: The American pastor recently released after two years of confinement in Turkey said on Friday that he suffered a breakdown during his time in prison and was put on anti-anxiety medication.
Andrew Brunson said he was deprived of books — even a Bible — for long stretches of time. For eight months, he spent 24 hours a day with more than 20 men in a cell designed for eight.
But the worst of it, he said, was the uncertainty. The pastor who had led a small congregation faced the possibility of life in a Turkish prison if convicted on charges of terrorism and related counts, accusations he still calls “ridiculous.”
“I didn’t do very well,” Brunson said of living in the crowded prison cell. “It was very high stress, and I was sleeping three to four hours maximum a day. And I was really struggling a great deal. I didn’t know how long this would continue. I didn’t know why I was in prison.”
He added: “I really had a breakdown emotionally. And I received medication for anxiety because I was just a basket case.”
Sitting next to his wife, Norine, Brunson spoke inside the Virginia Beach headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network after an interview on “The 700 Club,” among other CBN shows. The network closely followed his ordeal, which became a cause celebre for evangelical Christians as well as President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, Brunson was convicted in Turkey and sentenced to more than three years in prison. But he was freed and allowed to leave for the two years he had already spent in custody. For the past few months, he had been on house arrest.
Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.
Upon his return, Brunson, 50, visited the White House and placed his hand on Trump’s shoulder in prayer before asking God to provide the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”
Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. And the president maintained there was no deal for Brunson’s freedom.
Brunson said on Friday that he was unaware of any deals. And he pointed out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously suggested trading Brunson for Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of engineering a failed coup in 2016. The swap was never made.
The Brunsons, who spent 25 years in Turkey, said they still love the country but cannot return any time soon. They said they do not know what is next, but they view their ordeal as part of God’s plan.
“We haven’t done anything great,” Brunson said. “But for so many people in so many countries to be praying for us, this is something that God did. It was not just to bless me. He’s using that to bless Turkey.”
In the meantime, the couple is still recovering from the past two years, which included Norine Brunson’s arrest with her husband and the two weeks she spent with him in prison.
She was released and allowed to stay in the country while he was shipped around to various prisons. Their children, then ages 15, 18 and 21, were in the US and have remained there.
The Brunsons said they still do not know why the Turkish government made its accusations. Their missionary work was legal and out in the open for more than two decades.
But they said they were American Christians, who are viewed with suspicion in Turkey. And they were there after the failed coup.
Brunson said Turkish authorities never offered any proof to support the charges — no emails, no social media postings or recordings.
But people the Brunsons had known testified against him. It is something the pastor is still processing.
“It’s not an option not to forgive; we are required to as Christians,” Brunson said. “Is it easy? No. But God forgave me. As I get emotions that come back, I say, ‘I forgive.’”