Mohammad Shia Al Sudani Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: As a draft law to regulate demonstrations is currently under discussion in parliament, Iraq’s Minister of Human Rights assured Gulf News that the government is keen on ensuring citizens their constitutional rights.

Mohammad Shia Al Sudani has denied an outright ban on demonstrations and but insisted some regulations be implemented.

Currently, all demonstration requests have been rejected by the government and security forces have been cracking down on any rallies that do take place. Iraq accuses some neighbouring countries of backing terrorist groups in the country and encouraging anti-government demonstrations.

“There are conspiracy theories suggesting that some regional countries have supported groups in Iraq which are working to stir up sedition, sectarianism and hatred amongst Iraqis who have lived in unity and harmony for thousands of years,” Al Sudani explained.

“The government is merely taking precautionary measures to confront these conspiracies against it,” he added. The minister also downplayed reports of maltreatment of detainees in prisons. “Yes there are some corrupt individuals, but the official response of the government has been to discipline and prosecute these individuals,” he explained.

In the past two years, demonstrations have increased in Baghdad and other governorates as people have been calling for better services, the release of women detainees and more civil rights.

The protests in Al Anbar province, a largely Sunni area, have intensified following the civil war in Syria pitting a largely Sunni opposition against President Bashar Al Assad, an Allawite. Iraqis complain that the government of Noori Al Maliki is discriminating against the Sunni population in Iraq.

Protesters have also been demanding better access to water, electricity and other basic services. “We have announced officially that we support peaceful demonstrations of people demanding their simple and basic rights related to jobs and services,” he said.

“The Ministry of Human Rights has followed up with the protesters concerns and have met many of their demands,” Al Sudani explained.

The minister admitted to aggression carried out by security forces in Dhi Qar and Baghdad against unarmed peaceful protesters. “We completely reject these incidents and are following up the matter,” he said. But he also pointed out that some security forces have been attacked as well — pointing to incidents of beheadinngs and killing of soldiers.