IRAQ: Protests against shortages of necessities, corruption and occupiers

The demonstrators who were killed are not the only victims of the repression. Others include the many people who have been murdered for political reasons or killed in raids as suspected „insurgents.“ According to the online portal, „Iraqi Body Count,“ an examination of the media showed that in January overall 388 civilians were killed and another 254 in February. Experience has shown that the actual figures are many times that amount.
Already in the summer of 2010, the Iraqis went into the streets to protest the lack of food, electricity and water, along with the monstrous corruption. This protest movement, fed by the direct and immediate suffering and anger about specific abuses, was also driven primarily by young activists. The politicians in the „Green Zone“ in the capital Baghdad and the U.S. strategists in their Embassy fortress were confronted with an additional form of resistance, which put them under severe pressure.
Even if the immediate grievances are up front, the demands go far beyond this. The protests are obviously against the continued presence of 50,000 U.S. troops and against the walls that divide the city, and the entire ethno-religious regime that was introduced with the occupation.
The Washington-backed regime’s response was accordingly brutal. More than 40 demonstrators and journalists have been killed in the first two months of the year. Even during the first round of protests in early February in the southern Iraqi province Diwaniyah several people were gravely injured by shots, and at least one was killed. In Kut, a few days later, an angry mob set three government buildings on fire after several demonstrators were shot. Despite the repression, the protests spread to practically all major and many smaller cities of Mesopotamia — including the Kurdish north.
General Abdul-Aziz Al-Kubaisi, head of the Personnel Unit at the Department of Defense, resigned in protest of the brutality of the government forces, tearing up the insignias showing his rank in front of a camera on Al-Sharquija satellite television. The military declared the current government under Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki corrupt „from top to bottom.“ The political leaders in Iraq should suffer the same fate as Tunisia’s ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, according to the dissident. Al-Kubaisi was arrested immediately, but some officers followed his call to leave the army and join the protest movement. Muktader Al-Saidi, the journalist famous for throwing his shoe on U.S. President George W. Bush, was also arrested.
As in the other countries, the repression aroused the protesters even further. In many places, the now angry protesters stormed government buildings and police stations, demanding the dismissal of the local authorities or the provincial government. There were also protests against arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of detainees, combined with the demand for the release of political prisoners and access to the secret detention camps fun by Al-Maliki’s special units. The demonstrations were accompanied by several strikes, such as in the leather industry in Baghdad and in a textile factory in Kut. Workers‘ protests also took place in the Northern Oil Company in Kirkuk and the power stations in Basra, among others.
Nevertheless, the recent demonstrations showed an initial effectiveness. The monthly food aid arrived on time, which had not happened before. In addition, each household received the equivalent of twelve U.S. dollars in compensation for the reduction of rations. The first 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each month will in future be free to all households (see Junge Welt of 18 February 2011). In three provinces, the governors, accused of incompetence, corruption, and other charges, all resigned; all three belonged to Al-Maliki’s Dawa Party. Presumably there will be new elections of provincial governments, whose incompetence and corruption are criticized the most.
Despite these concessions, once again next Friday, March 4, there will be protests in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities — and virtually all other countries in the region.
Our author runs the Internet Blog »Nachgetragen“: jghd.twoday.net
Translated from the German by John Catalinotto
Source: Iraker begehren auf: Proteste im Zweistromland gegen Versorgungsmängel, Korruption und Besatzer. Widerstand kaum von westlichen Medien beachtet, junge Welt, 04.03.2011, http://www.jungewelt.de/2011/03-04/024.php

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