Tuesday,21 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013
Tuesday,21 August, 2018
Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Fear and violence in Baghdad

Ten years after the US-led invasion, fear and violence still dominate life in Iraq, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

A week of bombing targeted the Iraqi capital Baghdad in February following a previous week’s bombing of the northern city of Kirkuk, both events testifying to the fear and violence that still dominate the country 10 years after the US-led invasion.

The past three months have witnessed a new wave of bombing across the country, together with killings using silenced guns, especially in Hilla, Kirkuk, Tuz Khormatou, Mosul, Telafer, Taji and Baghdad.

According to monitoring services tracking extremist Internet sites, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group the Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for the latest Baghdad attacks “in revenge for criminal acts by the Shia-led government in Sunni areas of the capital”.

The attacks left 21 people dead, among them women and children, targeted the poorer neighbourhoods of the city and the Shia Sadr City area. They came after Sunni protesters had cancelled prayers in Baghdad on Friday, 15 February. The cancellation came after the government refused to allow the mass prayers to take place in the capital after calls from Sunni sheikhs.

It seems that the current round of Sunni protests will continue in the country’s Sunni provinces, unless the government led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki meets the protesters’ demands. In the meantime, the government has confirmed the release of some 3,000 detainees and has said that the other demands must be met by parliament.

Regarding the Baghdad attacks, the city’s Sunnis and Shias have been saying that these were “political revenge attacks”, and both communities fear a repeat of the sectarian war that made Baghdad a ghost town in 2006-07.

“It is clear that some blocs have politicised the protests,” Omar Hussein from the area of Al-Adhamiyah said, adding that there was a strong security presence in the city. Hussein said that “the demands of the protesters are legal, not sectarian, but both Sunni and Shia politicians are trying to present them as sectarian.”

Many Iraqi Shias said that “if the [Sunni] demands are not sectarian, why are the protesters wanting to pray in the Imam Abu Hanifa Mosque in Al-Adhamiyah, the most Sunni district of Baghdad? Why did they not decide to pray in the Al-Kadhimiyah [Shia] district or in Kerbala?” 

The answer, according to many media reports, is that various political blocs are using the protests for sectarian ends, even as the country’s provinces, except Iraqi Kurdistan and Kirkuk, are planning elections in April.

“The disputes among the politicians are leading to bloodshed,” said many people, fearing more attacks. They added that “if the politicians are after our votes, they should solve their disputes through dialogue.”

Such disputes are hindering the approval of the country’s annual budget in parliament, and “politicians and parliamentarians are remote from the interests and security of citizens and are for their own parties and interests,” many Iraqis said.

Ten years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, designed to bring democracy and human rights to the country, Iraqis still lack services and security. The government seems helpless in the face of the ongoing violence and the squabbling of politicians.

“We will not allow politicians to push us towards another sectarian war,” many Baghdad residents say. “We intend to protect our historical brotherly relations.”

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