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A Year After Iraq’s ‘October Revolution’ Began, Things Have Only Gotten Worse
Iraqi demonstrators carry an injured protester during clashes with security forces on Al-Jumhouri Bridge in the capital Baghdad, following a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of a massive anti-government movement demanding the ouster of the entire ruling class accused of corruption, October 25, 2020. (Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images)

A Year After Iraq’s ‘October Revolution’ Began, Things Have Only Gotten Worse

Protesters’ demands for transformation of political system unmet as same ruling class remains in charge

A year after the launch of the Iraqi revolution against widespread government corruption and incompetence, and excessive foreign influence, during which a new government was formed and nearly 600 citizens died, analysts say the situation has worsened and the aspirations of the demonstrators have not been satisfied.

The unprecedented demonstrations across Iraq, which called for the overthrow of the political system, resulted in the resignation of the then-prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and, after months of political stalemate, his replacement by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the former head of the intelligence service.

Abdul-Mahdi was replaced, but they in brought in Kadhimi, and more than 600 people were killed. The current system simply is not what the protesters aspired to

Hazem al-Shmary, a professor of political science at the University of Baghdad, told The Media Line that the demonstrations that flooded Iraq’s streets called for change in the approach prevailing in the country, and not in those running the country. However, “the government was changed but the same approach remained.”

Shmary explained that the system of quotas when appointing ministers and other officials, divvied up between political parties, is still in place. “Abdul-Mahdi was replaced, but they in brought in Kadhimi, and more than 600 people were killed. The current system simply is not what the protesters aspired to.”

He continued, saying that the incumbent political forces have remained on top of the power pyramid in Baghdad, and have manipulated the law to ensure they stay there, even as the economic situation deteriorated and there has been insufficient revenue to pay state employees’ salaries in recent months.

“As for [the power in Iraq of] Iran, it’s a huge country with a big project. Tactically, its influence in Baghdad has receded, but strategically it remained the same.”

The protests began on October 1, 2019, against unemployment, poor public services, rampant corruption and the political class, which the demonstrators saw as more pro-Iran or pro-America than working on behalf of the Iraqi people.

Fadel Abu Raghef, an Iraqi analyst and security expert, told The Media Line that after a year of the revolution, the economy is damaged, the health sector in decline, salaries are unpaid, and the national currency has depreciated dramatically.

“All of this due to mismanagement, especially in terms of the economy. There is no recourse to economic experts, and the state budget didn’t meet the people’s desires, but rather the ruling parties,’” Abu Raghef said.

As for foreign influence, he indicated that it has actually increased, where there was the “international power” represented by the US and Europe, the “Iranian power” and the “Arab power,” and the friction between them was increasing, all of which had bad consequences for Iraq, domestically and internationally.

“The Iranian influence is deeper, but the American influence is greater,” Abu Raghef said.

The political parties are still the same, despite the fact that one of the main demands was to remove this political class completely

Bushra al-Obaidi, a legal expert and a member of a women’s advisory group to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ representative in Iraq, told The Media Line that after a year of the revolution, the changes were not enough to meet the hopes of the protesters, who had sacrificed a lot of their blood and sweat.

“Yes, the government was changed, but what has really changed are the faces, but the politics remained the same, which was the reason demonstrators took to the streets [in the first place],” Obaidi elaborated. “The political parties are still the same, despite the fact that one of the main demands was to remove this political class completely.”

She clarified that the elections law was changed, but the political parties had translated this change to serve their interests, “meaning the law was written in a way that serves these political parties and not the Iraqi citizens.”

Obaidi said that the economy was collapsing, and not because of the revolution, but rather mismanagement by the state, “because the government change wasn’t what the protesters have been calling for, as it reproduced the same system on which the state has been based since 2003.”

She added that the system of quotas divided among political parties and of corruption persists.

Obaidi said that the situation was getting worse. “In addition, setting a date for an early election now is wrong. According to the constitution, there must first be a dissolution of parliament, and then the president [not the prime minister] calls for a new election within 60 days.”

On July 31, Kadhimi set early parliamentary elections for June 6, 2021, almost a year ahead of the scheduled date.

The country is threatened with bankruptcy, and [state] employees haven’t received their salaries for months

Milad Latof, an Iraqi journalist and political activist who participated in the protests that began last year, told The Media Line that the situation in Iraq has not improved but rather it has become worse, especially with the coronavirus.

“Today marks a year since our revolution, which we call the October Revolution. We lost a lot of martyrs in a revolution that was 100% peaceful, and unfortunately many young men and women died only because they demanded their most basic rights,” Latof said.

She added, “I mean, the country is threatened with bankruptcy, and [state] employees haven’t received their salaries for months.”

There are still people who place their hopes in Kadhimi, because he reached out to the street and listened to the problems of young people, Latof said, “but so far, the problems with the parliament and the militias remain the same as they were.”

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