20 04 2011

THERE IS ANGER IN IRAQ TOO! As the Middle East and North Africa continue to be in tumult, Iraq is not left out. This is a highly strange and a highly surprising situation. For the picture we are presented regarding Iraq and what we are told about it do not match the picture on the ground or the facts.

For many people, a popular uprising in Tunisia was something that could have been qualified as “reasonable”. Tunisia was not a country that was famous for its democracy. No one thought of the Tunisian state as an example to transparency or the dictator Ben Ali as an example of liberal rule.

Again, it was not strange that an uprising occurred in Egypt. In the lands which were home to some of the most important civilisations in the history of humanity, not much had been raised recently. Majority of the people were in the clutch of chronic desperation. As the sun rises every day, an important part of the population of Egypt is worried that it will not have enough food by the time it sets.

If any seeks to compare Hosnu Mubarak with another leader, they will probably not think of a Northern European or a Canadian statesman. Given the conditions, one may actually wonder why Egyptians did not rise up before.

Similar examples may be given from many other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It is for example another mystery when Libya, with its population of 6.5 million became a risk to the world and which threat of Muammar Gaddafi the UN took seriously enough to decide on an intervention in record time.

Yet despite all and however hidden it is kept, there is a socio-political movement in Iraq also which is noticeable for its reactions.

Iraqis are upset at corruption. They also complain of low standards of living and of political oppression. They are not happy with the occupation. To this end they are organising protests. The Western press does not cover the protests in Iraq. Perhaps the Western press remembers that whenever Iraq was mentioned it covered nothing other than “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction” for years. It may also remember that about Iraq, it had reported that the war “would be over in a couple of weeks”.

The Iraqi people, who were under an embargo for 12 years “for their own good” and were “liberated” in 2003 have been living freely for eight years. First Iraq invaded Kuwait on the 2nd of August 1990, declaring it a subject state. The Un Security Council then sprang to action. On the 16th-17th of January 1991 the first bombs fell on Baghdad and the war, which was the first to be watched live on TV by the world public opinion, lasted 42 days. The “Desert Storm” operation involved 580,000 American and 80,000 allied troops. US planes fired a missile approximately every 30 seconds. As the third week of the operation drew to a close, the strength f the bombardment equalled the total amount of explosives used by the Allies in air missions throughout the Second World War. By the time the operation was over, Iraq had been hit by 88,500 tonnes of bombs.

When the operation ended, “no-fly zones” were established in the south and north of Iraq. These were then violated by Iraq, leading to sometimes days long bombardments in January 1993, June 1993, November 1996 and December 1998. The air strikes collapsed the technical substructure, as well as its educational, health and social capabilities. Later in 2003, Iraq was “liberated” after a war carried out over “weapons of mass destruction”. It is being claimed that in the last years, 1.2 million people have been killed as an indirect result of the war. There are 580 academics amongst those killed during the last eight years in Iraq.

According to reporting by UPI, at least 29 have been killed in recent protest rallies in Iraq and at least 300 protestors have been arrested. It is thought that there are hundreds injured.

The UPI news should not be misinterpreted: in Iraq, which unlike Egypt, Tunisia and Libya is no dictatorship and is democratic and free, people are not killed only when they join protest rallies. In January 2011 388 civilians were killed in Iraq and in February 2011; 254. It should be noted that the numbers are estimates. For on the 15th on March 2011 alone 85 civilians were killed in Iraq. Various studies claim that more than 92,600 civilians have been killed in fighting in Iraq between March 2003 and March 2008.

The ungrateful (!) Iraqis, who were not happy at being saved from Saddam Hussein had previously carried out protests. They took to the streets during the summer of 2010 to demand access to clean water and constant electricity supply. In the meanwhile, the citizens of the oil rich country protested the level of food prices.

In Iraq, where security forces did not hesitate to fire upon protestors, there is anger just like there is in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. It is not only the Sunni Arabs who are unhappy and angry in the country but also the Shiite Arabs in the south and the Kurds in the north. That official buildings have been set on fire in Qut is an ordinary occurrence in Iraq.

Protestors have seen that their actions can have an impact. Although there was no very significant development, distribution of food aid has been made better organised. Every household was paid USD 12. For every household, the 1,000 kw/h of electricity became free of charge. A number of governors who are members of Maliki’s party and who had been involved in corruption scandals resigned. As they become more accustomed to the power and impact of their actions, protestors may begin to carry out more and more effective acts.

In the end, Baghdad’s use of disproportionate force against protestors led to them becoming desensitised against every form of oppression, rather than repressing and scaring them. While they carry out attacks on police stations and other official buildings, the people are also demanding the resignation of many officials. Important factors leading to the protests are known to be casual arrests, physical and psychological torture, political prisoners and secret prisons belonging to Maliki’s special forces. There are frequent strikes in Iraq. There was recently a strike at the Northern Oil Company in Kirkuk. The tug of war between demonstrators and the state continues.

General Abdulaziz al Kubaysi, Chief of Personnel of the Defence Ministry, resigned by taking of his insignia on air at a television programme, in order to “protest the use of violence by security forces against demonstrators”. In Iraq, where according to Nick McDonnell the rank of lieutenant may be purchased for USD 50,000, everything can be described with words other than “normal”.

Almost everyone in Iraq is of the opinion that the government and its supporters are up to their necks in corruption. Similarities between Maliki and the ousted leaders of Tunisia and Egypt are drawn. Yet Maliki has no reason for concern. No one sees what happens in Iraq as strange or unusual. In terms of world peace, regional stability and rule of the law, Gaddafi and his Ukrainian nurse are seen to pose a greater risk.

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