A paranoid, confused and a vague day of rage

February 28, 2011

The people want...! The people don't want!

Unlike the revolutions of North Africa, Iraq’s “Day of Rage” was marred by paranoia from the authorities, confusion by the protestors and demands that were too vague to be met.
These are all contributing to further divisions nationally and greater uncertainty about the future and the direction of these protests.
In North Africa, the case is far simpler. The people were (and are, in the case of Libya) divided into minorities that backed the regime and majorities that opposed them.
Their demands are also simple: the people want regime change. As a result, the story has been much clearer and much easier for the media to cover.
Despite the valid demands that the people of Iraq and Kurdistan Region are raising with the authorities, there was one word to describe Iraq’s day of rage: confusion.
This was reflected in the local and international media coverage of the day.
In addition to chaotic demands, the Iraqi people’s political, sectarian and ethnic divisions became clearer on that day.
The Sunni-Shia divide was most apparent. The seculars and Sunnis came out, while among the Shia, followers of the all-powerful Marjiya stayed home.
On the Kurdish front, the opposition Gorran (Change movement) backed the protest in Sulaimaniyah. The PUK stayed silent, though some speculate that the party may have quietly supported the protest by meeting with their rival, Gorran leader Nawshiran Mustafa, on that day.
Arbil, on the other hand, was for the most part quiet. As the opposition took to the streets in Sulaimaniyah, the KDP sent its supporters out to the streets of the Kurdish capital in a show of power or to pre-empt any possible demos in its territory.
The authorities’ reaction was mostly characterized by paranoia. Their disproportionate response to contain protests in some areas of the country stood in stark contrast to the slogans of the protestors and the articulation of their demands, which centered on better governance, eradicating corruption and providing services.
The call for regime change that has resonated throughout the Middle East and North Africa is notably missing in Iraq. At the same time, the slogans used by protesters have been unfocused, confused and abstract.
The primary reason is that while these demands can be addressed and detailed by experts, they are too general to be adequately articulated in a popular demonstration in Tahrir Square.
Taking a closer look at the situation today, we can see that the authorities and the protesters are locked in a standoff. The protesters’ demands are so broad that they will not be able to determine if or when they are met.
The situation has the potential to spiral out of control, with each side taking an increasingly firm and complicated position as each day passes.
The authorities can’t deny that fighting corruption and providing services are valid demands, but the protesters have to realize that the solutions are complicated and will take time to implement. The government cannot deliver services or end corruption overnight.
The protesters need to articulate their demands in a much clearer and more concrete way. For example, rather than just using the slogan “eradicate corruption”, they can demand full financial transparency from each governmental institution. Or, they can demand that MPs immediately draft legislation mandating that citizens have the right to government information.
In this standoff, and in the absence of clear and concrete demands by the protesters, the authorities have to take the first step to ensure that the situation de-escalates.

And they must deliver.
The authorities must realize that with every extra permanent hour of electricity, a dozen people will go home. And with every corrupt official taken to court or sacked, 100 more will go home.


    parwar says:

    Good essay about Iraq story.
    But i think PUK Fear suffered by protesters.

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