May 1, 2011 / 2:55 PM / 9 years ago

Hundreds of Iraqis rally for better workers' rights

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Hundreds of people, many of them members of the Iraqi Communist Party, demonstrated in the capital Baghdad on Sunday to press for more jobs and equal labour rights for women.

Thousands of Iraqis, inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab region, have taken to the streets in recent months to press for better basic services and an end to corruption.

Demonstrators, many carrying red flags associated with Iraq’s communist party, marched peacefully in Baghdad’s central Firdous Square, chanting “First of May is the day for workers,” referring to Sunday’s Labour Day holiday.

Some carried banners which read “legislate new democratic and fair labour law” and “enough of injustice, where are labourers’ rights?”

“On this day, we call on government to restart factories and plants that are not being operated and to employ workers,” said demonstrator Saeed Abdullah.

“This will provide a better and more secure life,” he said.

Eight years after the U.S.-led invasion which toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains slow to get back on its feet and rebuild an economy crushed by war and sanctions.

Around 23 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the Ministry of Planning. The official unemployment rate sits at 15 percent and another 28 percent of workers are in part-time employment.

Women make up a small part of the work force.

“There are no equal laws for women compared to men. I call for fair laws in this regard,” said Hind Wasfi Tahir, an activist belonging to an Iraqi women’s union who took part in the demonstration.

The Iraqi Communist Party, formed in the 1930s, does not have much clout although it has been participating in the political process since the toppling of Saddam’s regime in 2003.

The party took two seats in parliamentary elections held in 2005 but did not win any in the election last year.

Writing by Waleed Ibrahim, editing by Serena Chaudhry and Mark Heinrich

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