Hundreds camp at Iraqi parliament for second day

Hundreds camp at Iraqi parliament for second day
Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr gather inside Iraq's parliament in the capital Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, on July 31, 2022, a day after storming it. (AFP)
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Updated 31 July 2022

Hundreds camp at Iraqi parliament for second day

Hundreds camp at Iraqi parliament for second day
  • Analysts have said Sadr is using street protests to signal that his views must be taken into account
  • Immediate trigger for occupation was decision by rival Shiite bloc to pick Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani for PM post

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of followers of powerful Iraqi Shiite preacher Moqtada Sadr camped at the country’s parliament Sunday for a second day, protesting against corruption and political mismanagement.
Despite tear gas, water cannon and baking temperatures that touched 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit), they stormed the complex on Saturday after pulling down heavy concrete barricades on roads leading to Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone of diplomatic and government buildings.
The health ministry said at least 100 protesters and 25 security personnel were hurt in the confrontation.
Nearly 10 months after October elections, Iraq is still without a new government despite intense negotiations between factions.
Analysts have said Sadr, a mercurial cleric who once led a militia against US and Iraqi government forces, is using street protests to signal that his views must be taken into account in any government formation.
Both the United Nations and European Union warned about escalating tensions.
The immediate trigger for the occupation was the decision by a rival Shiite bloc, which is pro-Iran, to pick former cabinet minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani for the prime minister’s post.
On Sunday morning, the demonstrators marked the Muslim month of Muharram, a traditional Shiite celebration, with religious chants and collective meals.
“We were hoping for the best but we got the worst. The politicians currently in parliament have brought us nothing,” said one of the protesters, Abdelwahab Al-Jaafari, 45, a day laborer with nine children.
Volunteers distributed soup, hard-boiled eggs, bread and water to the protesters.
Some had spent the night inside the air-conditioned building — which dates from dictator Saddam Hussein’s era — with blankets spread out on the marble floors.
Others took to the gardens, on plastic mats under palm trees.
In multi-confessional and multi-ethnic Iraq, government formation has involved complex negotiations since a 2003 US-led invasion toppled Hussein.
Sadr’s bloc emerged from elections in October as the biggest parliamentary faction, but still far short of a majority.
In June, his 73 lawmakers quit in a bid to break a logjam over the establishment of a new government.
That led to a pro-Iran bloc becoming the largest in parliament, but still there was no agreement on naming a new prime minister, president or cabinet.
The occupation that began on Saturday was the second time within a week that Sadr’s supporters had forced their way into the legislative chamber.
They left on Sadr’s orders last Wednesday after about two hours inside.
The protests are the latest challenge for a country trying to overcome decades of war and now facing the impact of climate change.
Despite oil wealth and elevated global crude prices, Iraq remains hobbled by corruption, unemployment and other woes, which sparked a youth-led protest movement in 2019.
As a result of past deals, the Sadrists also have representatives at the highest levels of government ministries and have been accused by their opponents of being as corrupt as other political forces.
But protesters see in Sadr an opposition figure and champion of the anti-corruption fight.
One of them, Oum Hussein, 42, said the sit-in sought a government of “people with integrity who serve the country.”
She accused Sadr’s opponents of choosing for a new government figures “known for corruption.”
Sudani is the prime ministerial choice of the Coordination Framework alliance which includes lawmakers from the party of Sadr’s longtime foe, ex-prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
It also represents the pro-Iran former paramilitary group Hashed Al-Shaabi, now integrated into the regular forces.
On Sunday, a spokesperson for the European Union expressed concern about “the ongoing protests and their potential escalation.”
The EU called for “constructive political dialogue.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged “peaceful and inclusive dialogue” to form an effective national government, his spokesperson said.
Iraqi Kurdish authorities in the country’s north offered to host talks in their capital Irbil.


Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
Updated 29 sec ago

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in attack on his car outside Tehran that Iran has blamed on Israel

TEHRAN: Iran has pressed charges against 14 people for their alleged role in the November 2020 assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, local media reported Sunday.
Fakhrizadeh, who had been under US sanctions for his role in Iran’s nuclear program, was killed in an attack on his car outside Tehran that the Islamic republic has blamed on Israel.
Tehran’s chief prosecutor Ali Salehi announced that “14 people were indicted” in the case, according to Tasnim news agency, without naming them.
The charges against them include “corruption on earth,” aiding “espionage for the Zionist regime,” “colluding with the purpose of disrupting national security” and “actions against national security,” Salehi said.
Iran claims that the bombing and shooting attack that killed Fakhrizadeh was carried out by a remote-controlled machine gun.
Israel has never commented on the killing. In 2018, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that Fakhrizadeh had led Iran’s efforts to build an atomic bomb, a claim Iran has always vehemently denied.


Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister
Updated 9 min 47 sec ago

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

DUBAI: HAYASHI Yoshimasa, minister of foreign affairs of Japan, and Sameh Shoukry, minister of foreign affairs of Egypt, held a foreign ministers meeting discussing efforts to tackle climate change, methods of controlling the international food crisis, and further enhancing the bilateral relations between both countries on Sept. 22.

The COP27, a conference discussing the current climate situation, will be taking place in Egypt and HAYASHI expressed his hope to collaborate with the government of Egypt to extend efforts to hinder climate change. 

The Japanese minister argued that the root of the existing global food crisis stems from the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Both ministers agreed that cooperation between Japan and Egypt is mandatory to stop the current international food crisis as well as sustaining and enhancing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Minister Shoukry extended his condolences on the passing of the former prime minister and in return HAYASHI expressed his appreciation to the Egyptian president for sending a presidential envoy to attend the state funeral.

The two ministers shared a mutual agreement that both nations are vital partners for each other and encouraged further enhancement of the bilateral relationship. 

Originally published in Arab News Japan


Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
Updated 29 min 49 sec ago

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
  • ‘By the time she reached hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view’

LONDON: Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death in police custody has sparked nationwide protests in Iran, faced torture and psychological abuse before dying, her cousin told Sky News in an exclusive interview.
Erfan Mortezaei, a political activist and Kurdish fighter based in Iraq, told Sky News that Amini had become the “voice of the anger of the Iranian people,” urging the international community to respond appropriately to the regime in Tehran.
In the lead-up to her death on Sept. 16, Amini had been shopping in Tehran with family. Mortezaei said a confrontation occurred with local morality police: “When they saw Mahsa and others they decided her hijab was not correct. Ashkan (Amini’s brother) tried to explain to them they were not in their home city, and were strangers in Tehran, so asked to please take that into consideration and pleaded not to be taken away.
“In the struggle the police officers pepper-sprayed Ashkan in the face and forced Mahsa into the van and took her to the morality police station.” He added: “During the journey to the police station she was tortured and insulted.”
Mortezaei said the physical toll of the torture inflicted during the journey caused Amini to lose her vision and pass out, with an ambulance taking 90 minutes to transport her to a local hospital.
“There is a report from Kasra hospital that says effectively by the time she reached the hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view. She suffered a concussion from a blow to the head,” he added.
Mortezaei said his family had been pressured by regime officials to appear on state TV to deny their claims of torture and abuse. 
But steps by the regime to curtail public anger failed, with “Mahsa’s death becoming a spark for this protest movement across Iran and Kurdistan.”
President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility.”
The country’s police chief Hossein Ashtari also sent out a public message warning against demonstrations.


Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96
Updated 38 min 18 sec ago

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

DUBAI: Youssef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian controversial cleric who was seen as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group, has died at the age of 96, his official website said Monday. 

He died in Qatar, where he had been living in exile since 2013. Al-Qaradawi had been tried and sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt. 


Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests
Updated 36 min 45 sec ago

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

BERLIN: Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday over a crackdown on nationwide protests that were sparked by the death of a woman in custody, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Asked about the possibility of further sanctions on Tehran in response to the unrest, the spokesperson said “we will consider all options” with other European Union states.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of the 22-year-old in custody.