Protests and the Iraqi future
On July 9, the people of Basra city took to the streets to express their outrage against the lack of water, electricity and jobs in their oil-rich city. This inspired other young Iraqis to demonstrate across Iraq’s southern cities. Unexpectedly, the geography of protests has enlarged and reached Baghdad to put more pressure on the Iraqi political parties accused of corruption and patronage that led to wasting billion of dollars, which could have been used to develop these cities.
This time, these protests witnessed a new social mobility. The protests have not been interpreted in a sectarian way, and the protesters did not carry any religious placard. Instead, they quoted the same slogans appeared in the so-called "Arab Spring". Posters like "People want the downfall of the political parties" was widely noticed in those demonstrations. Thus, many observers confirmed that this cross-sectarian practice would lead to change the political equation in Iraq sooner or later.
The downtrodden people of Iraq's poor cities have this time proven that they can practically threaten the political system. They managed to control the entrances of Basra’s main oilfields, the hub that most of its oil revenue are allocated to support the Iraqi economy. Consequently, the oil companies working there announced their desire to suspend their work in case such protests targeted their foreign workers.
Protests were demanding the Iraqi government stop employing foreigners in these oil facilities. The locals said that such a procedure would offer them more jobs in their cities.
The other development that those protests experienced was the attack of the political parties' headquarters. That resulted in increasing the accusations of conspiracy among the Shiite parties. For example, the State of Law implicitly accused Muqtada al-Sadr of instigating the protests in order to embarrass his Shiite rivals. For sure, those protests would cast a shadow on the process of creating the new Iraqi government.
Such protests assured that the society no longer trusts the political parties. Absolutely, this will affect the future of many parties charged with plundering Iraq’s wealth. In fact, this revolution of the poor does not care about the fake democracy nor about the results of Iraq's May 12 elections, which were tarnished by the high levels of fraud.
Instead, those protesters pay more attention to the parties that can offer more jobs and more basic services to the cities and their residents. Socially, they believe that democracy means nothing important if it fails to build strong institutions to meet people's needs.
Recently, the protesters have felt they need to increase their claims. For instance, they called for sacking Basra’s governor. In the other areas, protesters asked for eliminating the role of the provincial councils that did not manage the investment opportunities in their cities wisely. Such an escalation can send a clear message to the politicians: You will all be subject to account, and no one of the corrupt leaders will be tolerated.
Through these protests, innocent people wanted to say that they are convinced that without rehabilitation of the political system, no positive changes would take place in both the present and the future. These protests affirmed that Iraqis can unite for a common aspiration. Thus, we believe that such protests, in the long term, can be conducive to create a vital goal: The reshaping of the Iraqi politics away from the sectarian divisions.
Diyari Salih is an Iraqi academic, Ph.D. in Political Geography, Baghdad, Post-Doctorate in International Relations, Warsaw, Focuses on the Geopolitical Issues in Iraq.