Sunday, March 27, 2011

Protests Continue In Iraq

Protests continue to occur in Iraq. The general perception that the government has not improved on basic services in the eight years since the fall of Saddam Hussein, nor cares about the average citizen has led to hundreds of people to take to the streets since February 2011. Friday has become a national day of protest for many, especially in Baghdad where there have been repeated demonstrations at Tahrir Square, which is located in the central part of the city near the Green Zone. The capital has not been the only scene for marches, as nearly every province of the country has witnessed one in the last month and a half. The last few days was no exception.

Woman in Tahrir Square holding up pictures of relatives detained by the authorities March 25, 2011
On March 25, Alsumaria reported that the security forces had blocked all the roads and bridges to Tahrir Square. This has been a tactic adopted by the police in many parts of Iraq to limit access and reduce the number of people able to attend any given protest. Those barriers must have been removed because later in the day there were two demonstrations in the square. First, a group came out against coming to terms with former Baathists. On March 23, the National Reconciliation Ministry announced that it had come to an agreement with five insurgent groups for them to lay down their arms and join the political process. The Sadrists have condemned the move as accommodating with former regime members. Later in the day, another crowd gathered to complain about corruption, unemployment, the lack of services, and the treatment of prisoners. Several women were in the group with pictures of family members they wanted the government to release. That demonstration was organized by the Civil Society Organization and Facebook Youth. The internet has proven to be a useful tool for some protest leaders in the capital.

Workers from the Iraqi Election Commission demanding full time jobs, Tahrir Square, March 26 (Associated Press)
Baghdad and Friday have not been the only place and day for assemblies in Iraq. March 25 also saw people gather in Najaf, Diwaniya in Qadisiyah province, Kut in Wasit, and Hillah in Babil governorate to voice their complaints about the government. The next day the Democratic Movement protested in Diwaniya again, against services, unemployment, and corruption. There was also a march west of Ramadi in Anbar. Temporary workers at the Iraqi Election Commission were also seen in Baghdad demanding full time work that day. These events show that demonstrations have not ended in Iraq, and that they are widespread throughout the country, not just in the capital.

Despite the authorities concerted effort, there are still weekly protests in Iraq. Their demands vary, but in general they have emphasized the lack of governance in the country. Services like electricity are still spotty, corruption is rampant, unemployment is highest amongst the young, not all the government positions have been filled one year after national elections, politicians are unresponsive to the demands of the public, etc. While the demonstrations do not threaten to overturn the system of government like in other parts of the region, they do pose a challenge to those in power. Already several governors have been forced to step down, and Maliki has felt the heat as well. As a result, the prime minister has given his ministers 100 days to improve or else. At the same time, he has actively attempted to suppress the demonstrations, and coverage of them as well. Little is likely to change after that deadline, so people will still attempt to hit the streets. That could lead to a battle of wills between those angry at the condition of the country and who demand change, and the prime minister who would rather solidify his power over the nation and be done with the public outbursts.


Alsumaria, “Baghdad Secretary resigns on account of protests,” 3/3/11
- “Iraq protests against bad services ongoing,” 3/26/11

Alsumaria, “In Iraq, Security Forces Block Streets Leading To Baghdad’s Al-Tahrir Square,” MEMRI Blog, 3/25/11

Associated Press, “Temporary workers at Independent High Electoral,” 3/26/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “Baghdad demo protests “reconciliation” with Baathists,” 3/26/11

Ibrahim, Waleed, “Analysis: Iraq’s Maliki wields protests to consolidate power,” Reuters, 3/15/11

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iraqi Parties Differ On Insurgent Groups Joining Politics,” 3/25/11

Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “Iraqi protesters rally in the rain,” CNN, 3/25/11


Anonymous said...

The city of Sulaimaniya in the KRG controlled area has DAILY protests in the central square, "Maidani Azadi".

Joel Wing said...

Yes I know, but I didn't have any articles on hand that mentioned them on Friday or Saturday so I didn't mention it in the article.

Harry Barnes said...

Have you seen Christopher Hitchen's article "The Iraq Effect: if Saddam Hussein was still in power, this year's Arab uprisings would never have happened" in Slate on 28 March?

Joel Wing said...


Yes I've read the article. Commentators have been throwing Iraq around back and forth on both sides over Libya. As for Hitchens his argument seems flawed. At the beginning he asks whether the protests in Iraq would've happened if Saddam was still in power because Iraq is such an important country and it had interfered in other countries affairs. Couldn't the same be said of countries like Syria, the Saudis, etc.? The Middle East is full of autocrats.

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