Abdulmunir Mohammed from Mosul, a married man with four children, died yesterday after setting himself on fire in what is being reported as a continuation of Iraqi protests against unemployment. Today several hundred Iraqis held a Valentine’s Day demonstration at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to call on their leaders to love Iraq rather than rob its resources, an organiser, Karnas Ali, a young engineer told AFP. “We do not want Valentine’s Day to be only one day of love but a celebration for reform, democracy, citizenship and freedom.”
On February 11 hundreds of lawyers marched in the streets of Baghdad, Karbala, Kut, Ramadi and Amara to protest corruption and unemployment, and call for open scrutiny of secret prisons and access to legal advice for prisoners. On the 10th, an anti corruption official had made a statement saying that ministerial coverup of corruption was frequent. Around 500 people marched in Baghdad that day. Media representatives had already marched in protest against high usage fees.
In an Al Jazeera video on February 9 (below) a government official states, “We know the suffering of the citizens. But we cannot deal with that by a decree. Electricity cannot come back by a ruling from the minister’s cabinet saying tomorrow electricity should be running 24 hours a day.” However, the government did just that on Saturday the 12th, promising Iraqi citizens their first 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month free of charge, courtesy of the Ministry of Electricity. In October the government had doubled the price of electicity. The government has promised to increase power imports from Iran and they are also talking with Syria and Turkey and planning to improve their own electrical output.
The most well publicized protest is being organized primarily by The Revolution of Iraqi Rage and advertised on many facebook pages and on twitter leaflets at universities and appealsthrough the internet, including to army and police officials. They are asking people to gather in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on February 25th to protest the corruption and poverty.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has agreed to cut his $360,000 annual salary in half to help “reduce the gap in the living standards for the different classes. … High salaries may create unrest in society and lead to the creation of two classes, the rich and the disadvantaged.” Maliki has also ordered that all Iraqis would receive cash handouts of almost $13 each and promised he would not run for a third term in 2014.
Some protesters say they want a new government and some don’t. The Digital Journal has a very good article today titled “What the Iraq war logs have revealed”, which provides a brief summary of what was the Iraqi people have recently been through. A reminder of the extra hardships they are going through now, not just unemployed with no electricity or clean water, but permanent occupation, nation wide post traumatic stress, care giving to unprecedented amounts of children with birth defects and wounded adults, and dead and missing family members have all created a society where an elected government is not going to cure all ills.