Prime Minister-designate Adnan Al-Zurfi is tasked with forming a government within 30 days [Handout via Reuters]
Iraqi President Barham Salih has appointed Adnan al-Zurfi as the country’s new prime minister-designate in the latest bid to resolve a months-long political crisis.
Al-Zurfi has 30 days to form his cabinet which he must then put to a vote of confidence in Iraq’s fractious Parliament. The 54-year-old former governor of the holy Shia city of Najaf heads the Nasr parliamentary grouping of former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
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Al-Zurfi would replace caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who quit in December following widespread mass demonstrations against a government that protesters see as corrupt, failing to provide them with basic services, and beholden to powerful neighbouring Iran.
Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn, reporting from the capital, Baghdad, said: “President Salih has made an unprecedented step chosing Adnan al-Zurfi without the consultation of the political parties in Parliament.
“He is somebody who is seen as having pretty close ties with the West and with the US specifically and, as a result of that, many of the political parties in Parliament are likely to reject him,” Foltyn added.
A senior government source told AFP news agency that political factions had intensely debated names for days, seeking a “non-confrontational” figure to preserve the status quo.
Al-Zurfi’s appointment came two weeks after former Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi withdrew his candidacy for the post, accusing political parties of obstructing him.
Al-Zurfi was a former official of the US-run authorities that took over Iraq after the 2003 US invasion that deposed former ruler Saddam Hussein.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
Outrage over Iraqi woman’s alleged torture by her husband
The alleged burning and abuse of a young Iraqi woman at the hands of her husband and his family has caused outrage on social media, with activists and commentators calling for laws to protect women from domestic violence. Videos circulated of Malak Haider al-Zubaidi, 20, bedridden in a hospital in the holy city of Najaf…
The alleged burning and abuse of a young Iraqi woman at the hands of her husband and his family has caused outrage on social media, with activists and commentators calling for laws to protect women from domestic violence.
Videos circulated of Malak Haider al-Zubaidi, 20, bedridden in a hospital in the holy city of Najaf and screaming in pain, her face swollen from burns and her entire body bandaged.
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Al-Zubaidi is the second wife of Mohammed al-Mayahli who, according to her family, had forbidden her from visiting her parents for eight months.
Al-Mayahli, a police officer, wrote on his Facebook page that al-Zubeidi has a mental illness and had set herself on fire.
“She burned herself with petrol and accused me and my family,” he wrote. “There are sponsored accounts that are posting these lies just to slander my family.”
i saw a video of her in the hospital and i can’t get her screams out of my head. justice for malak. don’t call me a “triggered feminist” when there are women out there in the world getting burned alive by their husbands/families. #ملاك_حيدر_الزبیدي
— دارين (@dareenalhabsi) April 13, 2020
Activists reacted with scorn to his words, and some shared an unverified statement from his family, saying that as sons of an important colonel in the army, the law cannot touch them.
While Iraq’s constitution prohibits “all forms of violence and abuse in the family”, the country’s penal code allows husbands to “discipline” their wives, and there is no law criminalising domestic violence.
There are also no updated national figures for domestic violence in Iraq, where the most recent data available is from 2012, but there are estimates that one in five women are victims.
Within hours, a hashtag reading Malak_Haider_AlZubadi in Arabic trended in Iraq.
#ملاك_حيدر_الزبيدي In Iraq,this girl has been burned,the psychological stress experienced by women are great and many,Domestic violence,killing in the name of customs and traditions,early marriage,absence of a law for holding men accountable,no law to limit childbearing,etc. pic.twitter.com/77Gfw6iNYu
— آروا آدم (@aroaadam94) April 12, 2020
One Twitter user said: “No law against domestic violence is yet activated in Iraq”.
“Even if it is activated, it may remain ink on paper in a country crippled by Islamists, militias and tribes,” the user, Balsam, continued.
Iraqi law as a result only gives lighter sentences of prison to men accused of killing their wives or daughters. No law against domestic violence is yet activated in Iraq. Even if it is activated, it may remain ink on paper in a country gripped by Islamists, militias & tribes/
— Balsam (@M_Balsam) April 12, 2020
Another user, Tara Shwani, called the incident an “intense violation of human rights”.
“On a daily basis physical and mental abuse is practiced against women in our society,” Shwani said. “Most of the people are claiming that it was self-immolation … When are we going to stop blaming the victims and focus instead on the perpetrators!”
On Sunday, Najaf’s governor, Louay al-Yasiri, ordered an investigation into the incident.
The governor’s media office said in a brief statement that al-Yasiri had called for “a specialised investigation team regarding the burning of a Najaf woman and to present the report within 24 hours”.
The Supreme Judicial Council said in a statement that al-Zubeidi filed a formal complaint with the Najaf Investigation Court against her husband for allegedly beating her, leading her to burn herself as a result of the violence against her.
However, al-Zubaidi’s mother told local Iraqi news channel al-Sharqiyah that it had, in fact, been her daughter’s father-in-law who signed the complaint.
“My daughter’s fingers are all burned and swollen,” she said. “The affidavit is null and void, because it was signed by her father-in-law, who told the lawyers he was her father.”
Mohammed Jumaa, an Iraqi lawyer, said he has seen hundreds of cases where the rights and lives of abused women such as Malak were wasted and those responsible were not brought to justice.
“Hundreds of abused women were killed or committed suicide and the law simply just stood there watching,” Jumaa said on Twitter.
“If it wasn’t for social media in this case, then the governor would not have said anything,” he added. “In our country, you have no rights if social media did not sympathise with you.”
Iraqi students rally against PM-designate Mohammed Allawi
Hundreds of students have marched in cities across Iraq to denounce the nomination of Mohammed Allawi as the country’s next prime minister despite calls from influential Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, for his supporters to clear roads and resume “day-to-day life”. Anti-government protesters in Baghdad, Najaf and Nasiriya rejected the choice of Allawi, who they accuse of belonging…
Hundreds of students have marched in cities across Iraq to denounce the nomination of Mohammed Allawi as the country’s next prime minister despite calls from influential Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, for his supporters to clear roads and resume “day-to-day life”.
Anti-government protesters in Baghdad, Najaf and Nasiriya rejected the choice of Allawi, who they accuse of belonging to the same political establishment that has failed them.
“For sure he is rejected,” a student protester in the capital, Baghdad, told Al Jazeera on Sunday. “For 16 years we haven’t seen anything from them, just destruction.”
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Mass anti-government protests erupted in Iraq on October 1, when thousands of people took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominately Shia-dominated provinces in southern Iraq to decry rampant government corruption, poor services and a lack of employment opportunities.
The protesters demanded the removal of the political elite and a complete overhaul of the country’s political system introduced after the US invasion of 2003.
At least 500 people have been killed amid a crackdown on demonstrations, with rights groups condemning security forces’ use of live fire.
The 65-year-old prime minister-designate is no stranger to Iraqi politics. A cousin of former vice president and prime minister, Iyad Allawi, he previously served as a member of parliament and communications minister under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Allawi resigned in 2012, accusing al-Maliki of political interference in his ministry and the government of turning a blind eye to corruption.
After two months of political deadlock following the resignation of caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Allawi was nominated as the new prime minister on Saturday, with the task of running the country until an early election is held, for which there is no date set.
The selection of Allawi followed an ultimatum by Iraq President Barham Salih, who had said he would pick a new prime minister himself if parties did not agree on a candidate.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Tehran offered its full support for the new prime minister.
“Iran is willing to give any assistance necessary to help Iraq overcome problems and to pass through a sensitive time,” Mousavi said, according to the official IRNA news agency.
Tensions on streets
Reporting from Baghdad, Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn said “large numbers” of students had taken to the streets at a critical time before midterm exams.
“What is noteworthy today is that they turned out in the streets despite mounting political opposition to the protest coming from Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr,” she said.
Earlier on Sunday, al-Sadr urged his followers camped out in Tahrir Square to resume “day-to-day life” by opening blocked roads and ensuring schools and government offices remained open in a statement posted on Twitter.
Al-Sadr’s followers had returned to demonstration camps on Friday after he reversed an earlier decision to withhold support from the anti-government protest movement.
Upon returning, al-Sadr’s followers consolidated control of strategic areas in Tahrir Square, including key bridges leading to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. Significantly, they also moved into a high-rise building nicknamed the “Turkish Restaurant”, which offers a strategic lookout over the protests and had been occupied by anti-government protesters.
“They attacked us by surprise and forced us out of the building shouting that we didn’t do any good to the country except ruining its economy,” said Rassoul, 20, a protester who had been camping at the Turkish Restaurant since October.
University students carry a huge Iraqi flag to express their rejection of newly-appointed Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]
Al-Sadr, who also leads one of the biggest blocs in parliament, has thrown his weight behind Allawi.
Al-Sadr’s followers, known for donning blue caps on the street, were seen on Sunday cooperating with security forces and clearing blocked roads, Foltyn.
Many protesters said al-Sadr’s followers had threatened them to toe his line or leave the square. “They will never mix with us,” said Mariam Nael, 18, a protester.
“We are here for our homeland, they are blindly following the tweet of one cleric,” she told the The Associated Press news agency.
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