Iraq's independence

History Oct 03, 2021 2 min read

Today we celebrate Iraqi independence day. The struggle for Iraqi self-determination remains an arduous and unique one.

Modern Iraq was born out of violent colonial state imposition and the resistance to it between 1916 and 1941. The British had built an intensive and imposing bureaucratic machinery in that period, which we now refer to as "the state". Part of this effort was educating an administrative Iraqi elite friendly to British interests. Yet Iraqis resisted this effort from north to south.

At that time many Iraqi political parties were formed as well but were violently repressed by the British, seriously stiffening Iraqi political freedom but also normalizing violence as a basic aspect of politics in Iraq. In the 1940s a new generation of Iraqis began to see that the state should reflect Iraqi identity and interests. A shift occurred where independence now meant not rejecting the state but by taking it over and using it for the political, cultural and economic prosperity of Iraqis.

Politics began to be defined very much by competition for state control. After the 1958 revolution several groups attempted to implement forms of social development meant to express Iraqi independence. Iraq's scientific, economic and healthcare success of this era is well known. Of course this is not meant to deny the persistent violence and war Iraq had to experience for this ambition of independence in the years that had moments of success. Sabotage, corruption, treachery and neocolonialist pressure and violence remained part of this history.

Iraq is unique in the fact that it is the only country whose state emerged through colonialism and whose state was destroyed by that same colonialism in the 2003 by the US occupation. This complicates the Iraqi journey towards political, cultural and economic independence. Yet, the idea of having a strong and robust state under the control of Iraqis themselves remains an important aspect of Iraqi national identity.

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