OPN IRAQ PROTEST1-1570012660697
Protesters hold bullets belonging to Iraqi police during a protest in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Iraqi security forces clashed with anti-government protesters in the capital and other provinces Tuesday, killing and injuring civilians, according to officials. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) Image Credit: AP

Iraqis have long complained of systemic and crippling corruption in their government and protests have sporadically gripped parts of the nation in the past few years. Things came to a boil on Tuesday when more than 1,000 protesters descended on the capital, Baghdad, in the first major demonstration since Iraq’s fragile government took office nearly a year ago.

One person was killed and more than 200 others were wounded, Iraq’s Health Ministry said, after security forces dispersed protesters with a volley of gunfire and tear gas.  It seems that the inability of the government to clamp down and properly address corruption has unified Iraqis from several different factions.

While in the past, some protest movements have been spearheaded by followers of Moqtada Al Sadr, it seems that this time around, people have just come to the streets on their own accord because they are fed up with the broken governmental system. This is not uncommon as such protests have erupted in several Arab countries, as seen in Sudan, Tunisia and even in Lebanon in recent weeks.

But in Iraq, where there is a parliamentary system and so-called democracy, many Iraqis are frustrated and criticise the red tape and bureaucracy that have made the parliament unable to pass any effective legislation. The protesters, both Sunni and Shiite, are increasingly frustrated with a government that seems unable to act on its own accord — divided between serving the interests of the United States on the one hand and Iran on the other.

It is time the government puts the interests of the people first and address their concerns

- Gulf News

The latest gathering was the biggest demonstration against prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi since he came to power in late October 2018, just months after demonstrations in the southern city of Basra last summer. Despite simmering frustration with the premier over the past year, streets in Baghdad had remained relatively quiet before a confluence of factors apparently reignited public anger this week.

Graduates have slammed the government for failing to hire them in a country where a vast majority of the labour force is employed by a bloated public infrastructure. According to the World Bank, youth unemployment in Iraq is running at around 25 per cent, double the national average.

Corruption must be rooted out from the source. It is time the government puts the interests of the people first and address their concerns.