There have been exhilarating winds of change in the Middle East, thanks in no small part to Twitter and Facebook. Today it’s Iraq’s turn, and London-based Iraqis have been debating whether or not its a good thing. A couple of weeks ago, Nouri al-Maliki backed the protests, people there told me that this one move made him rise in their estimation. For the last couple of days, he has been warning the protesters that their plight is being exploited by Ba’athists and Al Qaida, telling them not to take to the streets. Muqtada has weighed in and despite calling for these protests just a little over a month ago, has asked his supporters to give the government a chance to fix things.
I don’t think post-Saddam Iraq can be compared to the dictatorships in Libya and Egypt, I do however think that people should be allowed to protest for better services. There is no lack of money in Iraq and the government coffers are more than adequate. There has also been a perceptible improvement in the security situation, so I don’t think these demands are unreasonable. I don’t think the entire protest movement should be undermined on the basis that Baathists will try to ride the crescendo. There are some very real grievances that people have and stifling them on the grounds that their voices will be exploited by Ba’athists and other ”khubatha’a” doesn’t cut cheese.
What worries me though, is the precedent this sets. I would like to ask the prime minister “aren’t all protests prone to Ba’athist infiltration?” and if so, “are all protests therefore wrong?” I just don’t like the longer-term implications of the whole thing.
Its not only the government and its supporters that have made some really strange comments recently. I have heard comparisons made between Maliki and the regions dictators; for one, he has more of a mandate to rule than nearly anybody else in the Middle East.
In sum, I think the comments of Darghan Adnan, a young protester, are as eloquent as any to end with: “We don’t want to change the government, because we elected them, but we want them to get to work!”