Friday, February 25, 2011

Reflections on #Feb25 protests in Iraq

When I heard about Feb 25th I was of course excited, being the optimist and idealist I am; crazy ideas started running through my head. However after mulling over things and remembering what the streets were really like I came to the conclusion that things would probably never change, Iraqis are too divided and our people are too tired from years of suffering. But watching yesterday’s coverage changed my mind. In fact I felt like I was even watching scenes from Egypt when Iraqis brought rubbish bags and were picking up the rubbish left around – though I wish people would do this for all other areas, not just areas of protest; I mean Iraq’s streets are covered with rubbish and the rubbish men will only take your household rubbish for cash in hand!

Some Iraqis were quite creative in these protests - shows some haven’t lost their sense of humour. Some were carrying funny placards with cartoons of Maliki. Others were carrying fanooses - a fanoos is a lantern sort of thing that Iraqi’s use when there is no electricity - I suppose they were carrying them to symbolize the lack of electricity. I also remember seeing a guy carrying around a doll holding the Iraqi flag, an empty canister of water and something else I could not make out. I interpreted this to be a symbol of the Iraqi government - that the Iraqi government is filled with puppets who are like children and unable to provide basic services. The chants varied but many were condemning corruption and demanding proper services. Some were chanting that Iraq’s oil is for the people and not for the thieves in parliament.

Ofcourse only Al-Sharqiya TV was covering these protests. Al-Iraqia on the other hand, the State sponsored TV channel, had random songs playing and what not and then random condemnations from the government or warnings of violence here and there. I’m fairly certain any violence or if any explosive cars were to be used it would have been set up by Maliki and his cronies anyway. I found it funny that the people’s right to protest was recognised by the government but then a curfew was placed in Baghdad and all the roads were blocked with concrete blocks making it almost impossible to get to places like Tahrir Square in Baghdad – yet people persevered and walked. Al Jazeera was quite quiet on the matter too. I felt like no Western media covered anything in fact.

Protestors were met with brutality as expected. Tear gas, water cannons, sound bombs and live bullets are not a surprise – they are capable of MUCH worse. Ironically some protesters were sprayed with water… why don’t the idiots preserve the water and give it to the people to drink? It’s one of the things they’re demanding! I read reports about journalists being attacked and arrested and what not. That’s no surprise at all; controversial journalists are on the Iraqi government hit-list for sure.

I spoke to family and friends who said they were just staying home for the day, fearing to leave the house. Others said they had their internet cut off. Some were quite distraught at the amount of loss of life and were extremely shaken up by what had happened. Obviously it all depends on where in Iraq you are and how involved you get.

I am however a little confused and unsure about the objectives of the protests. I have heard several different things. Some came out on TV and said they had nothing to do with politics and are demanding basic services only. Some are demanding peace, reforms, security and an end to corruption. Somewhere else I read that there were three objectives:
-Full pull out of all the American Troops and to never set foot on Iraqi Soil to give the country back its full sovereignty
-Resignation of the Whole Government including all the parties that use religion or ethnic race as a facade of purity to cover up for their corruption
-Better services (electricity, water and jobs for the Iraqi people).

I really like those three objectives however I cannot verify the credibility of the source. I think that if the youth really do start asking for a regime change and lead this then the uprising in Iraq might really go somewhere!  I think we need to deal with the root of the problem – namely the occupation and the puppets that have been installed i.e REGIME CHANGE – and not just the outcome of the problem which is things like lack of electricity, basic services and jobs i.e REFORMS. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this all turns out. I still have that little bit of hope that somehow people might stop being so divided and unite. May the youth of Iraq learn from their Egyptian brothers and sisters who were in the frontlines in asking for REGIME CHANGE. I urge all Iraqi protestors to ask for a regime change and not just simple reforms that won’t really change anything in the long run. Change does not come from the top down; it should come from the bottom up. Supposedly Saturday is a day of civil unrest in response to the clashes on Friday. We’ll just have to wait and see…

RIP to all those who lost their lives on this day in Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, Basra, Samarra, Kirkuk and anywhere else I have missed!

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