Iraq Today: From Occupation to Spring?

Published March 4th, 2012 - 14:28 GMT

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An Iraqi street lined with power generators
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Image 1 of 9: Iraq has been compared to Lebanon in more ways than one. From turning into a blood-bath for proxy wars and score-settling, to living 9 years of power shortage. Power cuts & blackouts have become common place in Baghdad (as well as nationwide though notably better in the north of the country) as in Beirut, where generators have long been the norm.

A local Iraqi home-electrical switch-board
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Image 1 of 9: In the absence of reliable government electricity supplies, citizens take things into their own hands, adopting rogue tactics to acquire power. Those who can afford it, operate switch-boards for the community out of their own house. After a decade plus of sanctions followed by a decade of occupation, Iraq’s infrastructure is still in ruins.

An Iraqi soldier wields a gun
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Image 1 of 9: Security is a top concern for those considering returning to their homeland. 'Security' forces can't protect Iraqi people. The country has turned into a free-for-all for those with violent agendas. Just days ahead of this year's anniversary scheduled protest, a series of deadly bomb explosions tore through the country, taking over 60 lives.

Iraqi fruit and vegetable stalls in a market
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Image 1 of 9: Daily life is more costly than ever. Extortionate prices in the fruit & vegetable market aggravate locals who were used to living comfortably in a country rich in resources. Consider the basic price of 'tamatim' (tomatoes), risen to 1,500 IQD/ kilo (~1.3 USD). The basic price of 'tamatim' was 250 IQD previously. 'Fool' (broad beans) = 4,000 IQD.

February 25, the day of Iraqi Rage
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Image 1 of 9: Iraq Spring: There is enough discontent to pump protests. Given multi issues & demands, from corruption, to sectarian politics, the regime & the occupation, this 'uprising' may be rendered too dilute to meet goals. Perhaps the Iraqi Spring (Feb 25) has lost out to higher profile Arab Springs. Still, Baghdad’s Tahrir Square attracted ~ 1,500.

Nori al-Malaki
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Image 1 of 9: Nouri al Malaki: The Iraqi PM commented favorably this week on Syria's situation and Bashar al-Assad's latest action. He expressed support for elections under UN auspices to endorse the new constitution. Maliki called for openness among all the Arab states in order to have clear joint interests, firstly among each other, and then the world.

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Image 1 of 9: The Iraqi parliament decreed the purchase of 350 armored vehicles to secure politicians. This saps a hefty 50 to 60 billion IQDs from a budget that could better be spent on much-needed service projects & development. The country has pressing needs above armored vehicles for parliamentarians who disrupt traffic as it is with their security needs.

Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraqi Vice PM
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Image 1 of 9: Tariq al Hashimi and Nouri al-Maliki. PM Maliki has spoken his Sunni Vice PM Hashimi for being responsible for some terrorist activity experienced recently. Not the most cohesive of national fronts.

Iraqi unemployment is high
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Image 1 of 9: Iraqis want jobs. Amongst other festering problems in this country abundant in natural resources & economic potential, is a high unemployment rate. Among the population aged upward of 15 yrs, the rate is ~ 28.1%. Underemployment is another issue, where the economically potentially active work for a limited number of hours instead of full-time.

While co-Arab nations are undergoing turmoil and labor pangs of 'change', in Iraq it's business as usual. Suicide bombings, accusations and counter-accusations flying around to name perpetrators, unemployment, power cuts, repression and revolution in equal measure.

Here, we catch up with Iraq at a time when the media seems to have lost interest, since Pre-Arab Spring this nation had its own peculiar set of circumstances and causes for complaint. Throughout the 2000's Iraq had already lived a wave of protests and civil resistance to the occupation, both peaceful and armed.  Anti-sectarianism demonstrations were coming into their own, earlier this decade also, in a country where until recently, even electricity was distributed along sectarian lines.

Is Iraq managing to 'spring' along with its Arab Neighbors?

In spite of increasing security concerns in this explosive and unstable post-US pullout nation, Iraqis have still managed to muster some degree of mobilisation for their own Iraqi Spring since February 25, 2011.

We catch up with the state of play and living standard for daily life in Iraq 'post' occupation and post Arab Spring, from still-beleaguered Baghdad to northern Iraq and Kurdistan. Are Iraqis who had long-moved out, to settle in Jordan, Syria and beyond, considering returning home? By now, some Iraqis have been repatriated in their host countries. Some Iraqis abroad have spent a lot of money on residency, and might need to consider the costs (to security and livelihood) of moving back to Iraq.

Al Bawaba catches up with daily life in this often forgotten conflict zone.

 


 

 

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