Iraqi pilgrims protest corruption during Arbaeen march

More than 2 million Iranians and other Shiites joined the commemoration. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Iraqi pilgrims protest corruption during Arbaeen march

  • More than 2 million Iranians and other Shiites joined the commemoration
  • Arbaeen is considered the largest annual public gathering in the world

KARBALA: Thousands of Iraqis chanted anti-corruption slogans during the Arbaeen pilgrimage to the city of Karbala on Saturday, responding to firebrand cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr’s call to keep up anti-government protests.
Amid the throngs of black-clad pilgrims mourning the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, Sadr supporters dressed in white demanded “No, to corruption!” and “Yes, to reform!.”
Waving Iraqi flags, they chanted “Baghdad free, corrupt ones out!”
Sadr, whose list emerged as the largest bloc in parliamentary elections last year, helped Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi to form his government. But on Tuesday he called on Twitter for his supporters to march in shrouds.
Iraq — the second-largest OPEC oil producer — is “a rich country where the people are poor,” Khedheir Naim told AFP. The grey-bearded man came from the southern oil city of Basra to join the world’s largest Shiite pilgrimage, which culminated on Saturday. He denounced corrupt leaders, who according to official figures pocketed €410 billion over the past 16 years.
“Unfortunately, tyrants and criminals live handsomely at the expense of the people,” Naim said.

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3.5m - people — mostly Iranians — officially entered Iraq by land borders by Friday, despite warnings from Iranian authorities for pilgrims to delay traveling.

Denouncing corruption has been a primary theme of the protest movement shaking Iraq, alongside demands for jobs and functional services. In a single week of protests at the start of the month, 110 people were killed and 6,000 injured, according to official figures.
Calls have been made for fresh marches on October 25, to mark the anniversary of the government that is the focus of public anger.
The annual Arbaeen pilgrimage sees millions of worshippers, mostly Iraqis and Iranians, converge by foot on Karbala, 100 km south of Baghdad.
Arbaeen marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for the killing of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, by the forces of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
Placards with anti-US and anti-Israel messages are often seen in the crowd, though anti-corruption slogans are rare.
Despite warnings from Iranian authorities for pilgrims to delay traveling, 3.5 million people — mostly Iranians — officially entered Iraq by land borders by Friday.


Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 34 min 4 sec ago

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.