Iraqi protests, that began on Oct.1 in response to the country's malfunctioning political structure, are gradually getting out of control, increasing the risk of sectarian and partisan agendas.
“Iraq is today facing what Europe underwent hundreds of years ago regarding religious conflicts,” said Maher Naqeeb of Çankaya University during a symposium on Iran yesterday. He added that people's national identity must be highlighted instead of ethnic identity.
For now, the protests are mainly against domestic problems such as corruption, the poor state of the economy, poverty, unemployment, mismanagement, lack of public services and political instability, leading protesters to demand the dissolution of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi's government. Yet, the growing anger of the crowd could easily escalate due to the level of violence used against protesters. At least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in the protests that principally took place in the capital Baghdad and its south, which is to a large extent Shiite. Sunnis generally do not participate in protests in order not to be labeled as Daesh sympathizers, explained Naqeeb.
The government currently fails to deliver basic public services and is unable to protect its people against domestic militias and different paramilitary groups. State institutions are extremely weak and cannot function properly. On the other hand, the ruling elite and rich groups and families share the oil income among themselves and get richer as the rest of the people get poorer. “The people of Iraq – Shiite, Sunnis, Turkmens and Kurds – do not believe that the government is representing them anymore,” Khalid Olaiwi al-Ardawi, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Karbala University said. He added the issue of Iraq has multiple facets.
Furthermore, sectarian politics and the rising role and effectiveness of religious groups and other nonstate actors contribute to political instability. According to Naqeeb, people were hopeful when Saddam Hussein was gone, yet everything just turned worse with the six governments formed so far, none of which were successful and consisted of coalitions of several parties.
Relations with Turkey substantial, aid stability
Speaking to Daily Sabah, the State Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Aydın Marouf said: “Iraq’s relations with Turkey are highly important. Turkey had hosted in the past our people that were living under poor conditions. It has welcomed all ethnic groups without making any differentiation.”
Besides economic problems, the country was also largely victim to terrorism. It is not known exactly how many Iraqis fled western Iraq during Daesh's three-year-long reign of terror. The official numbers in 2018 suggested that nearly 150,000 Iraqis are living in various regions of Turkey. Even though it is relatively low compared to the almost 4 million Syrian refugees in the country, the number swells to a couple of hundred thousand with unofficial immigrants.
“As of 2014, almost one-third of Iraq was under the control of Daesh,” Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran indicated, adding that Turkey was one of the most important countries fighting Daesh. The deputy minister also mentioned that cooperation with Iraq in terms of military and defense is also planned.
“Iraq and Turkey should work together in fighting terrorist groups as Turkey is in the position of being the leading country in the Middle East,” added Marouf, continuing that once diplomatic relations are good, trade and economic relations will follow.
Just as it has been doing in northwestern Syria, Turkey announced it would provide the necessary support for the reconstruction of Iraq, pledging a $5 billion in loans and $50 million grants-in-aid at last year's conference, making it the top contributor.
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