Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Black comedy in Iraq

As the violence escalates once more in Iraq, ordinary people have been resorting to humour in their efforts to deal with it, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti in Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

While the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has stated that August was another bloody month in Iraq, with 804 people killed and 2,030 wounded, Iraqis have been trying to tolerate the tough situation through jokes and cartoons.

In a bid to take any step that could improve security, especially in Baghdad, the authorities have imposed tough restrictions on movement in the capital and elsewhere and carried out wide-ranging operations against the militants, yet the violence continues.

Among the restrictive measures that began last week was the banning of several hundred thousand vehicles from Baghdad’s streets each day in a bid to stop the increasing number of car bombings.

Cars with plates ending in odd numbers are allowed on the streets one day, followed by cars with even-numbered plates the next. This car measure has now become the subject of black comedy and jokes.

One famous photograph of UK Queen Elizabeth II taking a public bus has been shared by hundreds of Iraqis on Facebook, with the comment that “the Queen has even-numbered plates on an odd-numbered day.”

Another post has suggested that Iraqis should be banned from the capital altogether, as a sure-fire way to stop any suicide bombers.

Reporters quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying that “easing the traffic load on checkpoints will make it easier for the security forces to search vehicles without causing long lines.”

However, this has not convinced many Iraqis who are demanding that the authorities find out who is responsible after the latest wave of violence began in April of this year and continues to mark the bloodiest year in Iraq since 2008.

Another issue that has made Iraqis share jokes is the health condition of the president, Jalal Talabani, who was taken to a hospital in Germany last December after a stroke.

The latest news is that he has left the hospital for an unknown destination. Osama Nujaifi, the Iraqi parliamentary speaker, said at a press conference that he had tried going to Germany to see Talabani, but that his family had refused.

Some weeks ago, Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr suggested that a high-ranking official delegation should go to see Talabani in Germany. According to the Iraqi constitution, Iraqis should elect a new president after 30 days of the presidency being vacant, for example as a result of illness.

Because of the sharing of power arrangements in the country, the vacancy has continued since December without elections being held. Even Iraqi officials do not know where the president is or what the state of his health is.

Such black comedy has not been able to prevent fears of further bloody sectarian violence, however. Last week, a suicide bomber attacked the Shia Husseiniya Mosque in Baghdad, killing more than 35 people, while another suicide bomber killed more than 35 in an attack targeting a Sunni mosque in Diyala.

In many southern provinces, tens of Sunni families have been forced from their homes as a result of the violence. The Sunni Endowment, in charge of Sunni mosques, said in a statement late on Monday that it had decided to close Sunni mosques in Basra and other southern provinces.

Many NGOs and young Iraqis in Basra have begun campaigns against this latest sectarian wave, and thousands of people have taken part in demonstrations condemning it. The slogan is “all Iraqis are brothers.”

The Iraqis, who stopped the 2006-08 sectarian war by their efforts, are now insisting that this latest round of violence must also be stopped, insisting that it is targeting all Iraqis.

“There are hidden hands working on a new sectarian war in Iraq,” said Saad Al-Anni, a political analyst, adding that “the situation in Syria might be the reason for this.”

The Iraqi government has been against any US strike on Syria, and the two most prominent Sunni and Shia figures in Iraq, Nujaifi and Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, have agreed that “a strike against Syria would not be useful.”

To stop people from sneaking into Iraq, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence has begun putting concrete barriers along the Iraqi-Syrian border in Anbar province, the longest border between the two countries.

The area is difficult to control because much of it is desert and it is hard to reach.

Meanwhile, Deputy President Khudhair Khuzaee announced that many politicians and officials from different political parties and blocs would participate in a new Social Peace Initiative, warning that he would record the names of any who did not.

The Initiative was proposed by the National Alliance Bloc headed by former prime minister Ibrahim Jaferi as a step towards reducing political disputes.

“The politicians know that their disputes are the cause of the unrest in Iraq,” said Al-Anni. “But they have found no way to reduce them.”

Since 2005, tens of so-called Honour Accords have been announced and signed that have tried to halt the bloodshed, but the power-sharing policy in the country has always led to further sectarian disputes and problems.

The red of blood and the black of mourning have once again become the dominant colours in Iraq. Meanwhile, the country’s politicians have begun talks on new alliances for the general elections due to be held in 2014.

 

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