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Iraq: One step forward two steps back - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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He was organizing and arranging the protest, but the demonstration turned into his own funeral.

Many people have failed to take notice of the news that Iraqi journalist, playwright and political activist Hadi al-Mahdi was assassinated by two bullets fired from a weapon equipped with a silence only a few hours before he was scheduled to take part in a protest that he had enthusiastically called for and organized.

In the privacy of his own home, al-Mahdi was killed by two shots to the head fired by an unknown assailant.

This is the type of cold-blooded murder that prevailed across Iraq just two years ago, threatening public activists as well as scientific and cultural figures more than anyone else.

But why does it target such figures in particular? Why was al-Mahdi assassinated?

Al-Mahdi was one of the most active organizers of mass demonstrations in Iraq; these demonstrations protested government influence, corruption, and the sway of religious parties. According to al-Mahdi’s Facebook page, not to mention statements made by his friends and associates, he had received several death threats only hours before his assassination. Al-Mahdi had also previously been imprisoned, where he was beaten and tortured by the Iraqi authorities. This was after he had been arrested a few weeks ago whilst taking part in a demonstration; he was reportedly warned against taking part in more protests.

It is the new authority in Iraq that suppressed these protesters, killing some of them, and arresting al-Mahdi. This new authority also criticized al-Mahdi for the candour of his radio show. Iraq’s constitution recognizes freedom of expression and its new leaders haven’t stopped making speeches denouncing the despotic and tyrannical past of Baathist Iraq. However what is ironic and ridiculous is that it is these same politicians who are repeating this same form of despotism and tyranny!

We are alarmed by the signs that we are seeing which indicate that Iraq is moving against the current of the Arab Spring. In fact, Iraq today is moving towards consolidating a Baathist mentality, which the Iraqis paid a heavy price to remove. Meanwhile, the people in Iraq’s neighbouring countries are sacrificing their lives to topple autocracy; something that is deeply instilled within the Arab mentality.

In Iraq, the authorities continue to suppress protesters even after they have observed what has happened and is happening to regimes elsewhere that tried to silence their people, only to have the people rise up against them, whether this is in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya Yemen or Syria. Despite this clear warning, the authorities in Iraq persist in locking up journalists and activists, killing public figures and suppressing protests. All this is happening whilst Iraq has still failed to deal with Al Qaeda, which continues to carry out car bomb attacks across the country.

What is even more horrific is that Baghdad has decided to side with the Syrian regime that continues to supress peaceful protesters and those seeking legitimate rights and freedoms in a violent and bloody manner. This alliance, even though it has been employed in the context of Iran’s support for Syria, is no less dangerous for Iraq. The fact that the Iraqi authorities have supported the suppression and the killing of protesters in Syria is nothing but a prelude to what Baghdad may do in the future. Indeed, the Iraqi authorities have already crossed the line with regards to the manner that they are dealing with Iraqi citizens. The Iraqi authorities have decided to put in place an autocratic Arab regime, the like of which they suffered from in the past, rather than join the league of newly liberated Arab nations.

The suppression of protesters, the arrest and torture of journalists and activists in addition to other practices being committed by the Iraqi authorities today suggest that this country, which years ago was reaping a bitter harvest as a result of the Arab disregard for the plight of its citizens, is today establishing itself in a new position.

There is no evidence to confirm that those who assassinated al-Mahdi work for the government. However, everything indicates that such a possibility must not be completely ruled out.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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