Via Musings on Iraq, we see that the Arab Spring, widespread uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, continue in Iraq.
On September 9, 2011, protests occurred throughout Iraq for the first time in over six months. There were events in ten cities across nine of Iraq’s eighteen provinces, including Baghdad, Qadisiyah, Babil, Basra, Diyala, Anbar, Muthanna, Maysan, and Najaf. It was called “Friday of Denouncement of Bad Services and Suppression of Freedoms.” Demonstrations started in the country back at the end of January, but tapered off in the face of a concerted effort by the government to break them up. Since then, protests have continued, but they have been very small. Activists were finally able to organize nation wide assemblies calling for the government to reform, but it’s unclear whether they will have any long-term impact.
The problem for the activists is that they have not been able to sustain their effort. At first, they held assemblies every week for two months. Then the authorities cracked down on them, while offering reforms, and the crowds largely disappeared. There are still protests every Friday in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, but they are very small. Without constant effort they will not have any power to pressure the government. That added with the fact that the Prime Minister Maliki has shown no willingness to do anything but make empty promises means that September 9’s events will likely have no long-term affect. The politicians are largely immune to public pressure anyway, and are caught up in their own petty arguments rather than concerned about the public’s needs. The elite know that there are all kinds of shortages and major problems affecting the country, but either do nothing or lack the authority to enact any real change. That’s the sad reality of present day Iraq. Only massive and sustained demonstrations by the public could break this status quo, but organizers have not been able to make that a reality so far. The demonstrations, and their lack of affect have thus exposed the limits of Iraq’s democracy.
The question to ask here is why the protests have been heretofore unsustainable.
Is it an indication of the hierarchal nature of Iraqi politics, in that each bloc or constituency can be manipulated into protesting - or acquiescence? Or is it a lack of communication and media coverage available to both protesters and Iraqi citizens? Put simply, is the coverage of these protests reaching the intended audience, and is there even enough coverage to begin with?
The fact that when we think of the Arab Spring, Iraq doesn’t immediately come to mind, should tell us something about the perception of the Iraqi demonstrations, at least as far as the international audience is concerned.
Alive in Libya‘s Abdulhameed investigates an explosion that occurred in an ammunition storage near the Tripoli airport.