Virtually unmentioned in the US press, demonstrations for basic services have taken place across Iraq for the past two weeks. Today, in a march organized by local NGOs:
In Iraq’s capital Baghdad, more than 1,000 women and children took to the streets and called for the government to provide better care for the war-torn state’s orphans and widows.
“Raise your voice and call for your rights,” many chanted.
“I ask Maliki’s government to pay more attention to those poor orphans who lost their fathers and mothers for the sake of this country,” said Raghad Mahmoud, who demonstrated alongside her nephew, who lost his father in a car bomb in 2008.
“We live in a rich country that turns a blind eye toward its orphans. Orphans in Iraq have the right to a decent life, but this does not exist,” she said.
As Kelly Canfield noted in this post at MyFDL, members of the GorillasGuides team were involved and today reported that the demonstration went very well. (Members of the team will join us tomorrow for the weekly essay and discussion of Islam tomorrow at 1 EST at MyFDL.)
Whether the government will respond with better care is still to be seen. Prime Minister Maliki seems to be scrambling to try to contain the opposition:
Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, said the premier would fore-go 50 percent of his $30,000 monthly paycheck to bring his salary closer to other government employees.
But protesters are demanding much more, including that all members of the government take pay cuts to bring their salaries more in line with other Iraqis – and to allocate needed funds for the poor.
From GorillasGuides team member Diya al din, we learn that the Sadrist trend, whose support was essential to the forming of Maliki’s government just two months ago have threatened if those responsible for the shootings in Kut where one demonstrator was killed and more injured.
MP Jawad al-Hasnawi said the Iraqi constitution and international law guarantees the right to demonstrate peacefully, and the demonstrators who came out two days ago in Kut, were demanding their legitimate rights, such as improving services and the elimination of unemployment.
Haswani said “We salute the security forces who dealt with the protesters in a neutral way but demand investigations into the use of live bullets against the demonstrators.
And the Kuwaiti Times reports that Baghdad MP Jaafar Al-Sadr has resigned from Parliament, protesting the cronyism and lack of progress under the Maliki government:
“Everything is wrong with the political process, both in the government and in parliament: there have been for many years no solutions to the country’s most pressing problems, no strategy, no vision,” said Sadr. “People are still waiting for even the smallest improvement.” He continued: “The legacy of the former regime, the occupation and the mistakes that came with it, the increasingly aggressive intervention by countries in the region, and terrorism which strikes continuously have all contributed to this impasse.”
Along with today’s orphans march, there was a mass demonstration reported by Diya al din:
Saturday morning in front of the Green Zone, to protest the use of the security authorities of violence and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, which led to the deaths of many martyrs in Sulaymaniyah, Wasit, Diwaniyah, and the continuation of arrests against the protesters and carried out by government forces on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki.
Sources said that the Iraqi protester also come to protest the corruption and lack of services, calling for the government to expedite the provision of services and stop the growing corruption in all aspects of the state. The event was called by an organization calling itself “Enough is Enough”.
Meanwhile Abdus-Samad, also of GorillasGuides reports that demonstrations continued in Sulaymaniyah with students at the University condemning the violence of recent days and demanding that the Peshmerga be withdrawn from the city. Journalists were not allowed by authorities to enter the university area and were blocked from filming the protest.
Given America’s responsibility for the conditions Iraqis face today, it’s not surprising that news of these demonstrations and the desperate lack of the most basic services for Iraqi citizens, particularly the over one million orphans left by the war is swept under the rug. We have yet to hear even words of “concern” from the Obama administration.