Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Hope and sorrow in Iraq

The present wave of violence in Iraq is the worst since the bloody days of 2008, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

With the explosion of the 21st car bomb, 12 in Baghdad and the rest in the country’s central and southern provinces, the violence in Iraq had hit a new record by last Monday. July is now the bloodiest month in Iraq since 2008, with almost 790 people killed, tens of women and children among them, and 1,400 wounded.

Iraqis who had been dreaming of a peaceful Ramadan, have thus been experiencing the bloodiest holy month in years.

“What makes us most angry is the high-ranking officials who have been saying that the terror has not reached its target,” said Ali Hussein, who lost his house in the Monday bombing in the Al-Shuala neighbourhood of west Baghdad.

“We do not know what target they mean. Everyday, tens of people are being killed, and tens of others are losing their homes and livelihoods,” he said.

Adding to the anger has been the lack of any official statement to explain the reasons behind the rising violence, even as the commanders of the country’s security forces have not budged from their posts and have not offered to resign.

Last week, Iraqis condemned the country’s 2014 parliamentary budget, estimated at some half a trillion Iraqi dinars ($500 million), which included items such as movies, bicycles and trucks.

A campaign led by many young Iraqis and attracting university professors, journalists, men of religion and activists, has sought to reduce the monthly salaries of MPs and stop their generous pensions.

Mustafa Al-Baghdadi, an activist in the campaign, said that every parliamentarian received tens of thousands of dollars per month in salary and benefits and that retirement pensions were worth a further ten thousand dollars.

“The Iraqis feel that their parliamentarians are doing nothing for them. One parliamentarian was quoted as saying their task was passing laws and monitoring the work of the government, yet the violence and corruption are increasing and even with the present bloodbath the parliament has just gone on holiday,” he said.

“Millions of voters risked their lives on the day of the elections to make the few hundred MPs aware that they are not sharing in the wealth of the country,” Al-Baghdadi added.

The campaign has forced some MPs to admit the huge amounts they receive, and some have even promised to support the campaign.

The government has also still not explained the 22 July assault against the Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons outside Baghdad that led to the escape of 1,400 prisoners, though Al-Qaeda has stated on its website that it was responsible for the attacks.

The security forces have begun searching for the prisoners who escaped during the attacks. “The security forces are continuing their deployment in the areas surrounding the two prisons,” Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said recently, adding that a “large number” of escapees had been recaptured, though without saying how many.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that 369 escapees had been recaptured.

Over the last four months, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq has been publishing statements condemning the violence and warning of another sectarian war in the country.

Iraqis have begun to fear that such a war will now indeed take place, especially since many have been killed after having their IDs checked.

A wave of violence has targeted mosques, especially during the taraweeh prayers, leaving thousands of mosques semi-empty in the holy month of Ramadan.

Salima Aziz, a teacher, said that she had heard one analyst say that the present wave of violence was due to the widespread corruption in the country. She agreed, saying that “the corruption has led to putting unqualified persons in high-ranking posts”.

However, despite the violence Aziz said that life must go on, and she planned to spend the Eid Al-Fitr holiday buying new clothes for her children. While she feared the violence that has been targeting mosques, markets and teahouses, she insisted that she wanted to give some happiness to her family.

The great 10th-century Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi asked in one of his works “if the Eid will be the same with even more sorrow, or will it be the sign of a new day?”

Many Iraqis now fear that the coming Eid will bring nothing but more sorrow, though Aziz also quoted another poem by Al-Mutanabbi in which he asks, “what would life be without the smallest hope?”

Between hope and sorrow, life goes on in Iraq.

 

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