POST TIME: 16 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
‘Iraq will never be the same after protests’
AFP, Karbala

‘Iraq will never be the same after protests’

Demonstrators in Iraq's main southern city of Basra hold aloft a portrait of Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has increasingly backed their cause. AFP Photo

Iraq will be deeply marked by weeks of demonstrations demanding sweeping reform, its top Shiite cleric said yesterday  in some of his strongest remarks yet on the protest movement. In his weekly sermon delivered by a representative in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani piled pressure on authorities to enact sweeping reforms in response to the deadly demonstrations.

“If those in power think that they can evade the benefits of real reform by stalling and procrastination, they are delusional,” Sistani said.
“What comes after these protests will not be the same as before, and they should be aware of that.”
Protests erupted on October 1 in an outpouring of anger over high unemployment and widespread corruption but have escalated into demands for root-and-branch reform of the political system. Sistani, 89, cautiously backed the demonstrators when they first took to the streets, calling their demands “legitimate.”
But he has firmed up his backing in recent days and on Friday called protests “the honourable way” to seek change.
Demonstrators have brushed off government promises of reform as too little, too late, and Sistani appeared to do the same on Friday.