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October 8, 2019

Anger in Iraq

Editorial

 
October 8, 2019

There is hope in Iraq once again after political protest has returned to its street. No doubt this is the biggest nightmare for the puppet regime in Iraq. For almost a week, anti-government protesters have taken to the streets every day. The government has responded brutally by shooting down protesters, where the death toll has increased to at least 70. The increase in the loss of life in Iraq has only amplified the pressure on the Iraqi government, but what has been most encouraging to see is that the number of protesters has continued to double. This means that the Mahdi government is now under serious pressure. One of the clerics who sits in the opposition, Moqtadah al-Sadr, has asked for immediate resignations and new elections in the country.

The Iraqi government has asked for restraint under the logic that Iraq’s problems cannot be fixed quickly, but it has shown no restraint itself when dealing with the protests. After the US invasion of the country, the people of Iraq have not been allowed to form their own government. Policies have remained under the control of a US-backed governing elite, which has done little to control the state of civil war across the country.

The government has imposed a curfew in Baghdad while claiming that unidentified snipers are behind the killings. The protests have targeted legitimate concerns, such as youth unemployment, dire public services and chronic corruption across the country. There might be no magic solution, but it is clear that the Iraqi people have had enough of a decade and a half of war. Imposing curfews and internet blackouts are now standard strategies applied by authoritarian regimes across the world. The symbolism of Baghdad’s Tahrir Square becoming the centre of the fighting between the protesters and security forces is poignant. Protests have also been seen in Shia areas in the south. These protests give hope that a different future for Iraq is possible. But it remains to be seen whether they will become an organised movement to build a new Iraq. There is little doubt that this will be a difficult exercise. Iraq has been divided along sectarian, ethnic and ideological grounds deliberately. Iraq’s high oil reserves should mean that the state can build a strong welfare state, but this is not the objective of those who have ruled Iraq since the 2003 Iraq War. The country’s future only lies in a democratic future envisioned on the street. The Iraqi government would rather continue the state of war that has left ordinary Iraqis fending for their lives. For now, though, some hope has returned to Iraq.