Yesterday Iraqis went to Baghdad from all over Iraq for a demonstration. The publicly professed aim of this protest was to demand accountability for the many deaths since the 2019 protests. As expected, cracking down on the protests ensued and 2 protestors died.
Prime minister Al Kadimi, a preferred candidate of both the United States and the KRG elite parties came to power on the wave of protests in march 2020 but seemed to show little to no reluctance to apply violence when felt necessary.
Most protestors are young and from generation Z. The recent protest movement which mutated out of Muqtada's call for protests in October 2019, has a romantic aspect, fragmented, leadership and is very active on social media, making this group vulnerable for repression and cooptation.
However, as polling and anecdotal evidence has shown, the core of people's grievances remains economic, grounded in the increased poverty and the slashing of funds and training for public institutions. Protests against these problems -which were closely tied to the ongoing US occupation of Iraq- had been ongoing since 2003. Especially unarmed civilian protests became a annual occurrence even more since 2011.
This is a global phenomenon as the promises of prosperity and freedom of the Neoliberal economic model has only disillusioned people in the global south. Initially the Arab spring came forth out of the contradictions of the neoliberalization of the region. Initial protests in Syria and Egypt were about food prices, and only later were politicized towards overthrowing the government.
Iraq is no different. The demand for economic rights has been fizzled out of modern-day protests movements all over the world.
The clear counter-hegemonic arrow that a demand for economic rights poses for institutions had to be steered away towards increased symbolism, vague notions of freedom/sovereignty and self-expression. The idea that the global south is systematically exploited through privatization and coerced into the free market by an American military apparatus that collaborates with the local elites, is a feared idea, which if collectivized will only provoke military confrontation.
The coming elections in Iraq will be crucial to account for the impact of this young protest movement. In any case Iraqi law guarantees the right to protest and violent repression of peaceful protestors should be rejected at all costs.