11/15/2019, 14.02
IRAQ
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Christian lawmaker says protest is a right, calls on government to provide answers

Rihan Hanna Ayoub urges the government to solve the crisis before it “gets out of control”. Protesters have “legitimate demands”. Violent police repression continues with more victims in Baghdad. Christians have joined protesters under the same Iraqi flag.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Demonstrating is “a legitimate right of every Iraqi citizen and the Iraqi constitution guarantees this,” says Rihan Hanna Ayoub, a Christian MP from the Kirkuk. T

The government must satisfactorily meet the demands of the people before the situation “gets out of control,” she told AsiaNews speaking about the crackdown of anti-government protests by the police and security forces since 1st October.

The Chaldean Church responded to the crescendo of repression and abuses that left over 320 people dead and thousands wounded – mostly civilians – with three days of fasting and prayer for peace.

For the Christian lawmaker, protesting is “a legitimate right” provided that it is “peaceful and not characterised by chaos or encroachment on public or private property.”

As a member of the Council of Representatives (lower house of parliament) and as a delegate of the people, she is keen to see these demands met, especially because they are “real demands that the government should have fulfilled years ago.”

“Therefore, I call on the government to expedite its investigation in order to bring things together before it gets out of control, especially after the demonstrators and some security forces were badly hurt by the bad behaviour of some people.”

In recent weeks, more and more protests have taken place in the capital and the southern provinces. Protesters have called for the fall of the country’s political leadership, blamed for the current crisis situation.

People are angry over the difficult economic situation despite the huge oil rent. Oil accounts in fact for roughly 85-90 per cent of state revenue.

This year’s federal budget should be around US billion in oil money based on projected exports of 3.88 million barrels per day at a price of US a barrel.

According to the World Bank, rising oil production has boosted the Iraq’s economy, and the GDP is expected to grow by 4.6 per cent by the end of the year.

However, the wealth rarely reaches the average Iraqi due to poor financial management, inefficient bureaucracy and widespread corruption.

Overall unemployment is around 11 per cent with 22 per cent of the population living in poverty, according to World Bank estimates. One third of Iraqi youth are without jobs.

Such a crisis eventually triggered protests. Initially, the authorities tolerated them but eventually, began cracking down with increasing violence.

Yesterday, at least four people died and more than 50 were wounded when police charged a group of protesters in central Baghdad.

Some young Christians have joined the protest movement, along with Muslims, under the same Iraqi flag. This has boosted a sense of national identity at the expense of ethnic and confessional divisions.

Yahya Wartan is in the thick of it in Tahrir Square, the heart of the protest. He and a group of friends supply protesters with basic necessities, like food and medicine, following the lead taken by the Chaldean patriarch at the end of October.

Despite the tear gas and sound bombs, team members hand out food, water, medicines, hygienic items and blankets, wearing a white T-shirt with the words ‘Assembly of young Iraqi Christians’.

The reception, he told the Ankawa news agency, is "encouraging and has given us the impetus to continue. We want to show that even young Iraqi Christians are present at this time.”

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