The reason for the recent protests in Iraq

  05-Aug-2018 13:10:58

Iraq ShiaSunni

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The Iraqi people have gone through a lot of tumults. The endless civil wars, military coups, the uprising of the ISIL in the Iraqi towns and the constant battles. Each of these events caused deaths of millions of people. The invasion by the Americans had given huge hopes to the natives. After 15 years of following the ruling systems put forward by the Americans, the rise of another protest could be yet another scar for the nation.

But one cannot completely blame the people of Iraq. Endless civil wars have divided the nation. Every time the political elites took advantage of the fights between the Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia communities, there was complete ignorance on providing a suitable living condition for the citizens. This realization should have been the reason why the Shias of the south decided to revolt against the government.

In a country which has extreme summers in its calendar, the inability to establish a proper water management system indicates the complete failure of those ruling the country. The turnout for the election conducted in May 2018 gave a clear picture of the Iraqi population. They had lost complete faith in the government. The turnout was marked as one of the lowest after the end of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The unemployment rate across various cities is shooting upwards and that in places which were once under the control of ISIS is worst. Though the federal government promised 10,000 new jobs to the people, the revolt never ended. As protestors went ahead and attacked government offices and political elites, the decision to cut electricity supply was made. The crossing of the Green Line had annoyed a lot of political elites. After all, unemployment and water shortage are faced only by those who live behind the Line and not across it.

The claims put forward by the protestors are different from those that usually were heard in the country. An end to corruption and prevention of Iran interfering in the working of their nation remains on the list. The oil-rich city, Basra, provided the base to these protests. This is exactly what the government did not want. A disruption of the oil trade could bring down the existing economy, which largely favored the upper-class of the society. Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader who won the most number of seats in the parliamentary elections held in May, has joined the side of the demonstrators. Even the formation of a coalition government has been delayed by him until the demands of the protestors are considered by the existing government.

The long ignorance of Southern Iraq by the past governments has injected deep economic prejudices in the minds of these people who were once dominated by communal problems. The realization that corruption and poverty are the major problems has united the southern region. It went to such an extent that the government was forced to shut down the internet for a day. Though Prime Minister has tried to extinguish the fire by promising 10,000 new jobs, there is no substantiality to it. A majority of the population fall under the age of 25. In addition to this, there are fighters returning from the wrecks of ISIS. The protestors are also demanding jobs in military services and oil facilities. They pointed out that majority of the positions in the government services were filled through corrupt means and they have had enough of injustice.

Amidst the chaos, the results of the partial recount of the May 12 parliamentary election are yet to be announced. Though the vigilant stand taken by Muqtada al-Sadr has reduced the harm, the delay in the formation of a government could only make the situation worse. Iran shutting down its energy supply to Iraq has poured oil to the fire. Protestors marched through the streets with anti-Iranian slogans and burnt photos of Iranian politicians. The existence of a few Iraqi parties that are backed by Iran was questioned by them. With the energy supply being rationed and the summer heat throbbing, the people naturally got to the streets to claim their livelihood.

Recent reports from the southern parts of Iraq show that poverty is increasing every month. The internally displaced people are among those who face most of it. The number of slums in these localities is also increasing. Though ISIS is completely uprooted from the Iraqi countryside, the chances of another uprising cannot be completely ignored. If so, it would be the least wanted situation at this stage. Also, the prolonged instability in the south cannot be afforded by the government as Basra and the Persian Gulf provide almost 95% to the GDP.

The tales from the countryside are also not soothing. The farmlands are turning infertile and salinity is on the rise. The scarcity of water has affected not just the households, but also in power generation. The water supply through the Turkish border has also been disrupted due to a dam construction, leaving the Iraqi people to depend entirely on their own water systems. Tap water has turned salty, such that they cannot be used for cooking or for irrigation. Amidst this crisis, the people of Iraq are pushing the summer months.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had appointed a five-membered committee to deal with the demands and claims of the protestors. The leader also went directly to Basra after attending a meeting in Brussels and promised to bring the necessary changes. He also intensified the numbers of security forces across the oil fields and facilities and a called a nationwide alert to meet the uprisings. But it is quite clear that the existing government may not be looking forward to any long-term solution to these issues as they are planning to step down. All they wish to have is a filler, just to engage the people with promises that may or may not be fulfilled. But what they fail to realize is that these could no longer impact the common man who is deafened by the political dramas. If the negligence prolongs, the instability would be met with drastic losses to both the sides.


Written by:

KEERTHANA GANGA