Iraqi Politics - 2015
Sectarian violence fueled by the actions of Da’esh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) continued to divide the country. Destabilizing violence occurred throughout the year 2015 as government forces fought to liberate territory lost to Da’esh, principally in Arab Sunni and some mixed ethnosectarian areas. Armed clashes between Da’esh and government forces caused civilian hardship.
By year’s end the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) had surpassed 3.2 million. The country also hosted 245,000 Syrian refugees, most of whom have settled in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). Although donor funding increased, government response fell short of rapidly rising humanitarian demands, and displaced populations became destitute, leading some citizens to seek refuge abroad.
The Human Rights Ministry confirmed that allegations of torture and systematic abuses were pervasive within prisons and detention centers. International human rights organizations documented credible cases of torture and abuse in facilities of the Ministry of Interior and to a lesser extent in detention facilities of the Ministries of Justice and Defense, as well as in facilities of the KRG. The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) noted that torture cases were underreported because many detainees did not file complaints due to fear. HRW contended that widespread torture and systematic abuses continued in detention facilities and reported several instances of torture and rape of detainees.
As in previous years, abuse and torture, particularly by police and security forces, during arrest and investigation were common in pretrial detention and after conviction. Former prisoners, detainees, and human rights groups reported that methods of torture and abuse included: putting victims in stress positions, beating them, breaking their fingers, suffocating them, burning them, removing their fingernails, suspending them from the ceiling, overextending their spines, beating the soles of their feet with plastic and metal rods, forcing them to drink large quantities of water while preventing urination, sexually assaulting them, denying them medical treatment, and threatening to kill them. A number of inmates reported that prison guards mistreated their families during visits.
The head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq dismissed the US-led coalition's sincerity in its fight against the ISIL terrorists, saying Iraqis can defend their country on their own. "People of Iraq have the ability to liberate their homeland from the terrorists of ISIL and there is no need of foreign interference and international or American forces," Ammar al-Hakim said 14 January 2015.
Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani warned against some countries' move to disintegrate Iraq, stressing that Baghdad must safeguard its territorial integrity. "Maintaining and strengthening solidarity and territorial integrity of Iraq as an important Muslim country in the Muslim world is a strategic issue for the Islamic Republic of Iran," Larijani said in a meeting with Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban in Tehran on 19 January 2015.
In July demonstrations increased in several major cities, with protesters demanding better government services and an end to corruption. The prime minister ordered security forces not to interfere. Social media reports included photographs of security forces providing water to protesters and protecting protesters from agitators. One report depicted protesters protecting security forces from agitators trying to start a riot. There were limited reports of violence against protesters. Media reported that in July security forces shot and killed a protester in Basrah. The Basrah Provincial Council announced it was investigating the incident.
The government faced weeks of protests in July 2015 and August 2015 against mismanagement and a lack of services, including frequent power outages made worse by a recent heat wave. Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, also called for Abadi to do more to fight corruption.
In response to escalating protests across the country fueled by massive electricity outages, Prime Minister Abadi proposed a series of significant administrative reforms on 10 August 2015. Parliament approved a number of these measures, including reducing the cabinet from 33 to 22 members, eliminating three vice-president and three deputy prime minister positions, addressing tax evasion, implementing customs at border points including within KRG, reducing security budgets and lowering pension ceilings and salaries for some officials.
Following the announcement of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's plan to reform the country's political system and weed out corruption, Iraqis continued to protest against the lack of progress to implement these measures to date and demanded decisive steps to address widespread corruption, inefficiency, and low quality of government services. The proposal received mixed reviews from Iraq's politicians.
The plan to eliminate the positions of three vice presidents and three deputy prime ministers met with opposition from some political leaders and kudos from others. In eliminating so many government jobs, including that of the Sunni vice president, and abolishing sectarian quotas, Abadi risked further marginalizing Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority.
Iyad Allawi, whose position as one of Iraq's three vice presidents would be eliminated in the government reform package, told journalists the plan is unconstitutional. He said what was taking place was a clear breach of the constitution. Iraq's parliament on 11 August 2015 unanimously approved Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's proposed government reforms.
In some cases the government dismissed unauthorized protests or restricted protests for security reasons. On September 7, Basrah police prevented anticorruption demonstrators from staging a demonstration outside the Provincial Council building. On September 13, a few hundred protesters in Babil attempted to enter the Provincial Council building, but security forces stopped them. Protesters reportedly began throwing stones at the building and burning tires. According to social media reports, security forces fired into the air to disperse demonstrators but otherwise showed restraint.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said 28 October 2015 his parliamentary bloc of 60 lawmakers is withdrawing support from his rival and successor, current Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, and Abadi's program to reform Iraq's bureaucracy. Maliki's attempt to derail Abadi's political reform program and possibly unseat him, as well, came at a time of great regional uncertainty, as both the US and Russia remain at loggerheads in the battle against Islamic State militants. Iran and its Shi'ite militia allies have publicly criticized the U.S. over its efficacy in targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq and some have openly supported a rival security sharing alliance with Russia.
Iraq's parliament voted November 02, 2015 to limit the powers of the country's prime minister in passing reforms, forcing him to seek approval by lawmakers for enacting new measures. Lawmakers said the decision was not meant to specifically target Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi but to separate the powers of government and legislature.
Kirk H. Sowell wrote "The Iraqi parliament voted on November 2 to revoke any mandate for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to conduct reforms, putting an end to an eleven-week period in which the weak head of government seemed to ride a popular wave. The short era of “Abadi’s reforms”—from when he issued his first statement of reform measures on August 9 ... his failure to enact reforms thus far has been due not only to Shia rivals’ efforts to undermine him but also his own missteps.... [the reforms included] eliminating the three vice-presidency positions, one of them held by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."
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