Iraqis angry at vicious cycle of failure
Demonstrations and protests in Iraq have escalated in recent days due to the state of frustration over a lack of electricity, water and jobs. Iraqis have vented their outrage by setting fire to political and partisan headquarters and government buildings, raising fears about the fragile political future of the country. The government responded by cutting off internet services from most of the country in a bid to control public anger and prevent it from escalating, adding to the confusion.
The protests come at a critical time for the Iraqi government, which has been paralyzed by the elections that were held more than two months ago and which were marred by irregularities that have yet to be resolved. Iraq is currently recounting votes after claims of fraud.
The demonstrations were sparked by a power outage in the hot summer months, particularly in southern Iraq, where the population has been forced to suffer the high temperatures without fans or air conditioning. Conditions have worsened this year due to a severe drought that has led to water scarcity, as well as Iran’s decision to cut off the electricity it exports to Iraq due to a dispute over the payment of debts.
Iraqis have been angry since the country’s leaders, under US and Iranian sponsorship, decided to transform a major state into a playground for regional conflicts.
The recent demonstrations appear to be more widespread and have taken on a political and angry character against Iran, which has been evident in the slogans heard in different regions. But it should not be forgotten that the explosion of the Iraqi scene is not outside the context of current events. Opposition to the accumulation of political and economic failure and the giant machine of corruption had to be expressed.
Iraqis are really angry. They have been angry since the country’s leaders, under US and Iranian sponsorship, decided to transform a major state into a playground for regional conflicts. They have been angry since the writing of the constitution, at the rigging of elections, the theft of oil money, the failure to solve the electricity shortage, the inability to improve the struggling economy, and the spilling of the blood of unemployed youths on the battlefields of absurd conflicts.
Iraqis are exhausted from the war on Daesh, and fatal political mistakes have been repeated. Some people simply jumped into conspiracy theories to talk about Iran’s choice of the hottest month of July to disconnect electricity supply from Basra, where the protests started. At the same time, Turkey started to fill the Ilisu dam, threatening the city’s last source of pure freshwater. Moreover, it is the time chosen by the Iraqi government to give the green light to oil companies to seize farms containing oil wells. Crucially, the Iraqi government has failed to provide electricity and basic services after wasting tens of billions of dollars on corrupt and unproductive projects — schemes that could have produced enough energy for most of the Middle East — and that alone is enough to stir anger.
For Iraq — despite its fertile territory, two major rivers and the sea of oil that it sleeps on — to witness a “revolution of the hungry” would not be surprising news, even if we do not hear about it today. It might become a reality tomorrow, in light of the continuing inability of its impotent state mechanisms to break the vicious cycle of failure.
- Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. Twitter: @dianamoukalled