20 October 2019
English Arabic

Iraqi security forces use water cannons to quell unemployment protests

Saturday, 28 September 2019 03:02

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Protestors demanding government action on postgraduate unemployment were hosed down with Iraqi security force water cannons on Wednesday, in an act condemned by a national human rights commission as an act “against freedom of expression.”

Iraqi master’s degree and PhD holders have been protesting outside ministry buildings in Baghdad since June, calling for measures to ease unemployment among postgraduates, including an increase in public sector jobs.

video recorded by a protestor and published on social media on Wednesday shows water cannons being used to disperse protestors in front of the Council of Ministers in Baghdad.

Protestors, some of whom can be seen wearing graduation sashes, are knocked to the ground by the sheer force of the cannons. Other protestors rush to their aid.

“This is how Iraqi postgraduates are being treated in Iraq,” said the protestor recording events, who proceeds to call on Muqtada al-Sadr, the United Nations, the European Union and the entire world to come to their assistance.

Riyadh Mohammed, a member of Iraqi parliament’s higher education and scientific research committee and a Sayirun alliance MP, questioned protestor methods. The postgraduates should instead make their demands in writing to the higher education ministry, council of ministers and the Iraqi parliament, he told Rudaw English.

“Under the Iraqi constitution, all protests should receive permission from the government,” Mohammed said on Wednesday. “We support the employment of all Iraqi postgraduates - not only the graduates, but we are assisting the employment of all youth in Iraq.”

“We understand that the youth in Iraq have dreams and want to build their future, however respecting the security forces is essential. Young people should ultimately respect the security forces,” he added.

Iraqis have long been growing frustrated by the lack of job prospects available to them after graduation. The country’s 30 percent unemployment rate mostly counts university and institute graduates.

High unemployment rates were one of the causes of protests in the city of Basra in the summer of 2018. Demonstrations soon spread across the country and were met with police and security force repression, killing 14.

Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) released a statement on Wednesday expressing their alarm regarding the violence that has been used by the security forces against “peaceful postgraduate’s protestors."

“Postgraduates have been on peaceful strikes and protests for more than 100 days, and using violence against them is against freedom of expression and Iraq’s law,” the IHCHR statement reads. “We ask the Iraqi government to meet the demands of the postgraduates and listen to their concerns.”

Government is Iraq’s biggest employer of graduates, with four out of five jobs created in Iraq in recent years being in the public sector, according to the World Bank. Expenditure on the civil service makes up more than half of Iraq’s national budget. The 2019 budget proposed $52 billion in salaries, pensions, and social security for its workers — a 15 percent jump from the year before.

Source: Rudaw

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