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Ali is an economist and political analyst, working at a private UK-based company. He worked previously at the World Health Organisation and has an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS. You can follow him on Twitter (@alialsaffar).

Day of Rage

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!”

4 Comments on “Day of Rage”

  1. Thaqalain February 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    So far
    Half Revolution of Masr, quarter revolution of Libyans , 10% Revolution of Bahrainis, 5% of Yemenis, 1.5% of Iraqis have not changed anything except in total benefit of Al-Qaeda; Oil Cartels, neocons who are happy to see Oil price will rise to $220 next month.

    Revolutions need united nations under a powerful leadership, I have pity and mercy for the poor or middle class on street without any suitable leadership.

    The World is waiting another Khomeni or Khoei to bring the real revolution, real change.

  2. Thaqalain February 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    The so-called Democracy made World’s Record to form a Government on a formula sent by US Embassy in Baghdad where you won’t find any opposition , all like to rule and be minister or president , the only capital where you can find 4 VPs(Vice Presidents), 1000s of VVIPs, PSDs, Mercenaries, CIA Operatives in the cover name of Trainers, advisors, diplomats.
    America used Al-Maliki to legitimatise its behind the scene invasion of Iraq. In short Iraq is ruled by Oil Neocons who have fixed share in the government and no one like to sit in the opposition benches.

  3. Shkara February 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Good piece and some food for thought.

    As far as I know, this is not the first demonstration that has been held against the government. Yet this is a rare moment (if not the first time) Al-Maliki has urged people not to attend one. Does it not therefore suggest that he may be giving advice based on reliable intelligence he received?

  4. Ali Rashid February 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Thanks Shkara, that is a possibility, so I will not discount it. But if it were the case, it may have then been wiser to send out a security official to make the call rather than come out himself to urge people not to protest.

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