Iraq names two new ministers


Iraq appointed new education and health ministers a day after Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi promised to reshuffle government and enact reforms to stem unrest.

Suha Khalil is one of few women to become a minister in Iraq. Her appointment was approved by parliament, which also voted for the appointment of the new health minister, Jaafar Allawi, after his predecessor quit.

The changes are unlikely to satisfy Iraqis after more than 110 people were killed in a government crackdown on protests over jobs, services and corruption.

Protesters blame a corrupt and divided political class for failing to improve their lives two years after Islamic State was declared defeated in Iraq. The unrest is the biggest security challenge for the country since then.

Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday declared three days of national mourning, said he had not ordered use of live ammunition and announced measures aimed at placating protesters including a cabinet reshuffle, punishment of corrupt officials, job opportunities for the unemployed and stipends for the poor.

In a sign parliament remains divided, dozens of lawmakers boycotted Thursday’s session after approving the ministerial appointments.

“We voted for two vacant ministries so they could start doing their work, but the prime minister should have presented changes to ministries riven with corruption,” said lawmaker Husham al-Suhail who walked out of the session, without giving further details.

Some lawmakers who oppose the power of Iran-backed factions with ties to militia groups that back Abdul Mahdi suspended participation in parliament during the unrest.

Many Iraqis live in poverty have limited access to clean water, electricity, basic healthcare or decent education as the country recovers from years of conflict.

During unrest in Baghdad and southern cities, security forces used live rounds and tear gas against demonstrators, blocked the internet for days and arrested activists and reporters covering protests.

If reform is not introduced more unrest is likely to break out. Authorities still keep the internet shut 10 days after violence started, though no serious violence has been reported since Sunday.