Protests in Wasit, Dhi Qar

People with disabilities demand boost to benefits payments

KUT CITY — People with disabilities gathered in front of the Parliament Office in Wasit’s Kut city, demanding the immediate implementation of increased benefits as outlined in recent amendments to Law No. 38 of 2013, which focuses on disability care.

The protest in Kut is part of a broader series of demonstrations across various Iraqi cities today, advocating for enhanced rights and support for people with disabilities.

Yusuf Al-Saadi, the Coordinator for People with Disabilities in Wasit, expressed frustration over delays in the disbursement of the new benefits. “Our protest today aims to push for the execution of the parliamentary article that raises our allowances from 170,000 to 250,000 dinars ($130 to $191). We were expecting these changes to take effect at the beginning of 2024,” Al-Saadi told 964media.

The protesters are disheartened by the decision to postpone the increase until next year’s budget, stressing that the current allowance does not meet their needs. “The increase is only 80,000 dinars ($61), and it’s insufficient,” Al-Saadi added.

The demonstrators have called for the inclusion of the increase in the 2024 budget and urged for greater attention to their needs, including easier access to government services, provisions for personal aides, and financial aids to alleviate their living conditions.

Hakeem Al-Badri, Director of the Parliament Office in Wasit, acknowledged receiving the demands. “We act as a conduit between the governorate’s residents and the Parliament. We have taken their demands and will forward them urgently for consideration,” Al-Badri stated.

In a similar vein, protests occurred in Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar, where demonstrators echoed the demands for immediate disbursement of the revised allowances and proposed transferring the Disability Board from the Ministry of Labor to the Prime Minister’s office.

Faez Hamid, a participant, emphasized the importance of restructuring: “We demand that the Disability Board be attached directly to the Prime Minister’s office and that benefits be adjusted based on the degree of disability,” Hamid said, calling for equitable treatment and provision of land plots to eligible individuals.

Director of the Parliament Office in Dhi Qar, Haider Talib, reassured the protesters, stating, “The demands are legitimate and require minimal financial resources. We will forward these to the General Secretariat of the Parliament and the Parliamentary Committee on Labor and Social Affairs promptly.”

In the Kurdistan Region, particularly Sulaymaniyah, people with disabilities have been actively campaigning for an increase in their monthly government benefits to match those in the rest of Iraq. Currently, those in the Kurdistan Region who are unable to work receive 150,000 dinars ($115) per month, while those with other income streams receive 100,000 dinars ($76).

The protests, organized by the Union of People with Disabilities in Sulaymaniyah, highlight that the stipends provided are insufficient to cover basic needs. The movement gained momentum earlier last month with a rally at Sara Square, and the demonstrators have continued their advocacy.

Two weeks after the initial demonstration, the protests were renewed in front of the Sulaymaniyah Governorate building. Saman Hussein, head of the Kurdistan Union of People with Disabilities, expressed a deep-seated frustration with the political system. “We are voicing our disenchantment with all political factions and have no party representing us. We will extensively boycott the elections if our demands are not met,” Hussein stated, emphasizing the group’s readiness to disengage from the political process if necessary.