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Iraq’s Sadr calls for general strike to pressure govt on reforms

Sadr says ‘it is now imperative to activate peaceful protests’ following the expiry of his one-month ultimatum to the government on the issue

Published: Updated:

Iraq’s prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Friday urged government employees to wage a two-day general strike across the country starting Sunday over what he described as the government dragging its feet over moves to curb corruption.

In a statement read at Al-Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Friday, Sadr said “it is now imperative to activate peaceful protests” following the expiry of his one-month ultimatum to the government on the issue.

Iraq ranks 161st out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Sadr, who enjoys a wide base and is the leader of the Sadrist Movement, urged all government employees to start their peaceful protest starting Sunday to Monday. He said the would-be protesters should stand in front of buildings to fix urgent matters that need to be dealt with.

He also called for a hunger strike inside mosques, churches and other places of worship and cultural institutes.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi assumed office in September 2014. The main plank for his premiership bid at the time was to fight corruption and press ahead with reforms.

While Abadi launched his offensive to bring about more reforms, including reshuffles within top military ranks, his promised change is still elusive in a country rife with political rivalry and instability.

As the operation to liberate Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul looms, parliament withdrew confidence from the country’s defense minister over corrupt arms deals.

Some commentators consider the move to sack some politicians over others as political, with the former defense minister himself accusing fellow politicians, including the parliament speaker, of corruption.