Erbil traffic police put on hold a fee-based VIP services option after social media backlash. File photo: Mohammed Shwani/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Erbil police have put on hold their plans for a VIP services section after social media erupted with fury over institutional corruption and elitism.
On Tuesday, Erbil’s directorate of police announced they would open a VIP section, charging people 100,000 dinars ($84) in return for quicker services. Reaction to the news came fast and furious on social media.
"General Directorate of Erbil Traffic Police opens a #VIP lodge for people’s paper works, provided that they pay 100,000 IQD. This is a blatant violation of people’s right to equal access to public services," said Twitter user Sardar Sattar.
"Fire the person who made such a decision so that he never knows what VIP is," Najaf Amir wrote on Facebook.
The backlash drove the Ministry of Interior on Thursday to put the VIP plan on hold while they study the matter.
Muqadam Fadhil Haji, spokesperson for Erbil's traffic police, told Rudaw the decision to open the VIP section came from the Ministry of Interior. He added that the name VIP was a misnomer, explaining that every country offers expedited processing of services for a fee.
"When you want to go to a government bureau, and if you want to be given extra services, in return you have to pay fees," said Hadi.
"Misunderstanding of the decision led to all this fuss," he added.
The expedited option will cut wait times for the general public if companies needing a volume of services opt to pay the extra fee, he explained. Relatives of Anfal victims and martyrs, and the disabled will be able to use the service for free, he added.
"The decision is a very good decision,” he said, adding that the VIP section has not been closed.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) doesn’t agree that it is a good idea.
"If the impression is made within the people that this is a differentiation between the people, we reject that impression and are opposed to all types of differentiation," Hemin Hawrami, head of the KDP in the parliament, told reporters on Thursday.
Hawrami said he raised the issue with the Minister of Interior and was assured the VIP lane would be put on hold pending an extensive study of the matter.
Iraq ranks among the most corrupt nations in the world. Public anger at endemic corruption has fueled protests from Sulaimani to Basra.
One social media commenter said simply cancelling the VIP decision is not enough.
"The ones who create such class differences should have been sacked from their posts so as to become a lesson for others not to dare play with the feelings and pockets of the people. They are a big virus in the bureaus and institutions of the government," wrote Facebook user Sarhad.