Twenty thousand temporary jobs created during the Bashayer al-Khair campaign to combat terrorism and unemployment in Diyala province will be turned into permanent positions in three phases, provincial officials announced last week.
According to Diyala governor Hisham al-Hiyali, the first phase involves screening 12,500 contractors who are currently working for provincial directorates but have not been officially endorsed by the Ministry of Finance to become permanent employees.
The second phase involves screening around 4,000 randomly chosen individuals who have not yet begun working in the directorates.
The third phase involves receiving applicants from provincial residents to fill the remaining 3,000 slots.
Bashayer al-Khair was a military campaign launched by Iraqi forces in 2008 to pursue and hunt down al-Qaeda members in Diyala province.
Following the success of the military campaign, Diyala launched scores of projects in 2009 to find work for 20,000 unemployed people.
Last month, following the approval of the federal budget in February, the Iraqi parliament formed a committee to convert the temporary contracts created under the Bashayer al-Khair campaign into permanent positions.
According to Diyala province spokesperson Turath Mahmoud, the Iraqi cabinet added another 10,000 job slots to the 20,000 approved by parliament.
"Here in the province we have 40,000 unemployed people, of whom 30,000 will be given jobs," he told Mawtani.
Turning the contracts into permanent jobs "will help improve the living standards of Iraqi families in Diyala province by fighting unemployment", said Iraqi parliament member Mohammad al-Khalidi.
"The province's parliament members are also working on energising the role of the private sector in view of its importance in employing large numbers of the unemployed, supporting the national economy, and uplifting the province's economy and the process of reconstruction," he said.
The announcement generated reactions welcoming the initiative, as well as scepticism over whether it can be implemented effectively.
"Many of the province's sheikhs doubt whether the situation in Diyala will improve and reach the level hoped for because of administrative corruption," Sheikh Hussein al-Khalaf, a Dulaim tribal chief in Diyala, told Mawtani.
At the same time, al-Khalaf emphasised "the tribesmen's and the provincial figures' solidarity with officials to uplift the state of services and improve security and the social situation in Diyala."
Mohamamd Jameel al-Amery of the Diyala agriculture department told Mawtani the initiative is much-needed in his sector.
"Diyala is one of the important agricultural provinces of Iraq. The agricultural sector has greatly deteriorated due to many factors, the most important of which was al-Qaeda's control over parts of the province for about four years," he said.
"We badly need workers in various fields and specialties in order to exercise our patriotic duty in reviving the province's agriculture sector. Therefore, appointing the contractors of Bashayer al-Khair will meet the agricultural sector's need for jobs," al-Amery said.
Saad Fadhil, 27, one of the contractors, welcomed his appointment as an English teacher.
"The majority of the province's young people are unemployed. Some work on daily wages, without future security, but my work as a teacher will ensure a better future for me," he said.