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I do not know if anyone is interested…but here is a tragic story and a true indication of the level of our moral and cultural decline, which we have suffered from for decades. The hero of the story is an Iraqi journalist, who suffered immeasurably at the hands of his assassins and those who have since forgotten him!

Days before the assassination of the Iraqi journalist and playwright Hadi al-Mahdi, in his home in the Karrada district of Baghdad, it was the eve of demonstrations planned to take place in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. Al-Mahdi was one of the most zealous advocates of these demonstrations, calling for the economic situation in Iraq to be addressed, and the political process there to be corrected. Al-Mahdi, who hosted the radio talk-show “To Whoever Listens”, was killed on the same day that he wrote on his “Facebook” page claiming to have received death threats because of his call for Iraqis to participate in the Tahrir Square demonstrations in order to push for change in the country, due to the dire economic, and deteriorating political conditions.

It is sad and unfortunate that the killing of the Iraqi journalist [al-Mahdi] did not receive a level of condemnation or denouncement, whether Iraqi or Arab, commensurate with the degree of welcome and celebration that Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi found when he threw his shoes at the former US President George W. Bush, during his visit to Baghdad. Conferences were held in honor of the shoe thrower, and some Arab media organizations and bodies sought to celebrate and defend him. They portrayed him as an unrivaled, gallant hero, inviting him to seminars, and presenting him as if he was the shining example of Iraq and the Arabs!

The shoe thrower found a degree of fame and attention that another Iraqi journalist did not find when he paid with his life for his call to improve the situation of Iraq’s citizens, and reform the political regime in his country. Have we heard one audible voice asking questions about who killed him? And why? Or how a journalist can be killed when his only sin was to call for change through peaceful demonstrations, in a country which we are told is democratic, and supposed to ensure its citizens’ right to express themselves and demonstrate? How can you kill an Iraqi journalist calling for change, and thus end his life, in a country where the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who is effectively a confidant of Iran, sought to lecture the Gulf States about the rights of the Shiites in Bahrain? Thus, we should ask al-Maliki a simple question, which is as follows: What about the rights of Iraqi citizens to express their opinion? How can you kill a journalist calling for something that is meant to be ensured by the Iraqi regime, namely a protest demonstration? Why was he not provided with protection, especially as he had received death threats, and the victim had complained of this publicly? Was this neglect deliberate, or was Iraq’s democratic government too busy defending the Baathist regime of Bashar al-Assad, on the grounds that sectarianism is more important than citizenship?

It is really frustrating when we see a journalist killed for calling for change in his country, at the time of the so-called Arab Spring. Furthermore, we find that no one has advocated him or defended his case, at least with the same amount of attention that the shoe thrower received!

Thus, from contemplating the story of the slain Iraqi journalist, and the negligent attitudes towards his death, we can see the true level of our moral and cultural decline.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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