Iraq: class struggle in the pandemic

Submitted by AWL on 10 June, 2020 - 5:12 Author: Nadia Mahmood, Worker-communist Party of Iraq
Iraqi protest

We were in the middle of the uprising in Iraq, the “October uprising”, when the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread...

A lockdown, which meant staying home and not going to work... a wave of lay-offs or private sector workers. And some workers in the public sector did not receive their wages, specifically in the health sector, or their wages were delayed, and some civil servants of a certain age were forced into retirement... All these factors led to an economic crisis... People who rely on daily wages... had two options... to die of hunger or coronavirus.

This situation caused people to have a lot of grievances, so they took to the streets, breaking the curfew. During a demonstration in the city of Nasiriyah in March, a female activist was assassinated.

In light of these events, labour and civil society organisations and the Worker-communist Party of Iraq reached a National Program Agreement. In this document, they held the government responsible for providing treatment, hospitals and field hospitals, as well as helping the unemployed and providing them with financial aid.

The government and the Covid-19 Task Force issued a new procedure, which provides financial aid to laid-off workers in the private sector. Each person who is eligible is granted 25 dollars a month. 25 dollars per family in a country where a kilo of meat costs 8 or 9 dollars and a carton of eggs around 5 dollars or a kilo of fish 6 dollars...

Another result of the Covid-19 pandemic is the violence women have been subjected to. We have never witnessed this level of femicide and female suicide in Iraq. We have and are still hearing every day stories of women being killed by their families, or being pushed to breaking point by domestic violence and committing suicide. We heard stories about rape, about women being chained up.

These repercussions of Covid-19 have had a disproportionate impact on women and precarious workers.

• Abridged from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation website here. The RLF also reports: “the protesters in Tahrir Square took their own precautionary measures, [such] as the manufacturing and wearing of facemasks, the disinfection of tents and the decision that only 20 % of the protesters are to remain in the square... As soon as the lockdown ended [on 10 May] protesters returned to the streets to demand their political, social and economic rights and the overthrow of the political system”.

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