The repression of antigovernment protests in Iraq is an indication of how bankrupt the government has become. While the Iraqi people are starving and desperate for change, taking to the streets to demand the resignation of the government whom they see as ineffective, the government has done practically nothing to address their concerns.
Instead of listening, they have responded with violence — an indication that dissent will not be tolerated in the supposed democracy. Freedom of speech and expression should be a staple of any functioning democracy.
Iraqis rejoiced after the fall of their long-time dictator Saddam Hussain in 2003, but it seems that democracy that replaced it risks going down the same path of violent repression.
This is the second time protests have broken out this month. Three weeks ago demonstrations also turned deadly with at least 150 people killed then. The protests are the biggest against Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi since he came to power in late October 2018, just months after demonstrations that engulfed the southern city of Basra last summer.
Many Iraqis are finally seeing the destabilising effect of Iranian hegemony in their country. Iran emerged as a major power broker in Iraq after the 2003 invasion and has close ties to many of its political parties
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. Iraq is a country with vast resources and wealth, but because of corruption, unemployment and poverty is increasing.
It is time that the government put the interests of the people first and address their concerns. The rallies have mainly been by young, unemployed men who are demanding jobs and better services. Young women appeared among the crowd in Baghdad for the first time Saturday, some handing out water to the protesters.
Pertinently many Iraqis are finally seeing the destabilising effect of Iranian hegemony in their country. Iran emerged as a major power broker in Iraq after the 2003 invasion and has close ties to many of its political parties.
Iran also backs a number of state-sanctioned militias which have stood by the government and suggested the demonstrations are part of a foreign “conspiracy.”
Like what is happening in Lebanon, it seems that Iraqis are slowly shedding their sectarian identities and uniting under the Iraqi flag — fed up with a system that only benefits those in power while the people are left with nothing.