Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The Iraqi Via Dolorosa

The appointment of a new Iraqi prime minister is unlikely to solve the country’s problems, writes Nermeen Al Mufti in Baghdad

Al-Ahram Weekly

No one can predict what will happen in Iraq. Although the Iraqi President Fouad Masum has named Haider Abadi, the current deputy speaker of parliament, to lead the new Iraqi government, some sort of power sharing needs to be agreed upon.

As a result, the Iraqis, amidst the ongoing violence, bloodbaths and political clashes, have lost their chance of having a cabinet with ministers appointed by the prime minister himself and not by the political blocs.

“The power-sharing policy has led Iraq to the present chaos, corruption and insecurity,” said Saad Al-Hadithi, a political analyst. “It has brought Iraq to the edge of catastrophe. Almost every minister worked for his bloc, sect and ethnic interests, and the head of the government could not discipline anyone as otherwise the bloc would ask the minister to boycott meetings. A government like this is not a genuine cabinet one,” he added.

Despite the appointment of a new prime minister, outgoing Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has refused to surrender. At a press conference after the naming of Abadi, formerly the spokesman of Al-Maliki’s own Da’wa Party, attended by Al-Maliki and 28 MPs from his State of Law bloc, a statement was released saying that Abadi “represented no one but himself.”

The bloc said that its “candidate for prime minister is Al-Maliki,” and Al-Maliki said that he would take action against the president for violating the constitution since a decree of the higher federal court had confirmed his bloc as the largest one in parliament.

Pro-Al-Maliki demonstrations began in Baghdad, where his bloc won the majority in last April’s general elections.

“We don’t know what is going to happen,” said Amal Ezzat, a PhD student from Mosul, in a phone call with the Weekly. Ezzat was in Mosul working on her thesis, and after the central government lost control of the city she did not know how she was going to return to her place of residence in Turkey.

Since she is Arab, she said, she would not be allowed to go to Erbil, meaning that she would have to take the long and dangerous route from Mosul to Kirkuk and then to Sulaimaniyah to get a flight back.

Ezzat had also lost two close friends, a Turkmen woman from Telafer who had become displaced with her family and a Yazidi from Sinjar whose whereabouts she did not know.

Qassim Murtadha, a producer for Turkmeniya TV-Iraqi Media Net, was working in Baghdad when his family members were in Telafer and were forced to flee on June 13. A few of them went to Baghdad, but most went to Sinjar Mountain.

Murtadha said he had lost his niece in the fighting. “She was only 17 and had only recently got married,” he said. “She died a tragic death.”

After food had been dropped by helicopter to the people trapped on the mountain, most of them Yazidis (about 60,000) and some 10,000 Turkmens from Telafer, people tried to jump onto the helicopter that was flying one to one-and-a-half metres above the ground in an attempt to save themselves.

Her young husband managed to catch the edge of the helicopter and stretched out his hand to his wife. But as he did so the helicopter suddenly took off, dragging his wife off the ground and then letting her drop from a height of around 50 metres. People around had tried to save her, but her head hit some rocks and she died almost instantly.

Her mother and family members, who had reached Kerbala a month ago, arranged her funeral and her body was buried under the Sinjar Mountain where dozens of Yazidi children were also buried.

According to Murtadha, many Turkmen families managed to reach the Syrian border, thinking that they had reached a safe haven. However, this was not to be, and the Turkmens were taken into custody, “you can understand by whom,” with the result that “one member from every family was set free to tell others that the rest of the family had been killed.”

As the Weekly went to press, Turkmens began leaving Qara Tapa, a mostly Turkmen town east of Diyala. Some 4,000 displaced families were settled there, Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs and Turkmens.

Young Iraqis have begun a campaign to help those displaced by the violence on Facebook, with young people from different ethnicities, religions and sects distributing 1,200 food baskets to displaced families in Kirkuk and the Khazar camp in Erbil.

The food is being distributed to all, Turkmens, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Yazidis. “We are all Iraqis,” said Ahmed Agha, a 23-year-old Kurd from Baghdad. His views were seconded by Ali Al-Bayati, a 25-year-old Turkmen from Kirkuk, and Usama Al-Ani, a 24-year-old Arab. However, the three men refused to mention their ethnicities when interviewed.

“We want to see a united Iraq,” they said. “People feel they are citizens of Iraq before any other description.”

According to Iraqi and international NGOs, almost 300 displaced Turkmen children from Telafer have died. “Those who are fighting each other nevertheless unite their efforts against the Turkmens,” said Turhan Ketene, a Turkmen politician and activist.

He said that the Turkmen town of Amerli, 200 km north of Baghdad, had been besieged for the last 56 days with 20,000 civilians inside, none of whom had electricity or water or food and medicine in the 48- to 50-degree heat. Some 400 young Turkmens had sworn to defend the town “until the last drop of their blood,” he said.

The late American response to the crisis came when the danger was close to Erbil, the capital of the northern Kurdish region. This has made many Iraqis angry, who have been asking why US President Barack Obama had decided “only to support the Kurds.”

US jets hit jihadist positions in northern Iraq on Friday, a potential turning point in the two-month crisis Washington says is threatening to result in genocide and endanger US assets.

Many activists in Baghdad expressed their happiness at the American action, while others said that “once again the Americans and [Kurdish leader Masoud] Barzani have managed to arrange the fate of the Iraqis in a way that the Iraqis don’t want.”

Meanwhile, the people of Iraq continue on their Via Dolorosa.

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