London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Comments posted by Iraqis, both inside and outside of the country, on the social networking website “Facebook” in favor and support of the young Egyptians protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have now transformed into a call for Iraqi citizens to conduct peaceful demonstrations calling for improved government services, more security, and improved political and economic conditions. This comes as a knock-on effect from what is happening in Egypt, with regards to the protests against President Hosni Mubarak which have now entered their second week. The anti-Mubarak protests and demonstrations in Egypt are continuing strongly despite the fact that Mubarak has promised to implement the constitutional amendments demanded by the demonstrations and announced that he would be delegating the bulk of his presidential powers to his deputy, Vice President Omar Suleiman.
The intensity and enthusiasm of the Iraqi bloggers only increased after 3 demonstrators were killed last week in the al-Hamza district of the Diwaniya province in southern Ira after police opened fire on a crowd that was protesting against the lack of basic resources and services, most notably the lack of electricity services. This was followed by demonstrations in the cities of Basra, Ramadi, and parts of Baghdad. This prompted one Facebook blogger to comment that “they went out to protest peacefully in Diwaniya and Basra, carrying lanterns and some rationed items, as an expression of our protest against poor conditions. They were met with live fire…and died as martyrs. What kind of a democracy is it where peaceful protesters are met with live fire?”
The following are excerpts from blogs and comments written by Iraqis calling for peaceful demonstrations on social networking sites, with the names of the bloggers and posters removed for their own safety:
One blogger wrote “those who possess weapons will transform any attempt to demonstrate into a disaster and a war on the streets. Therefore there must be peaceful protesting, and disengagement between the two sides of the equation. There are corrupt people here, murderers there; this is the issue in its entirety: [there is] a vicious circle in Iraq”.
Meanwhile, another blogger acknowledged that “we waited too long, and the timid protests that did occur were not commensurate with the extent of the disaster [in Iraq]. The only way to stop this is with more demonstrations and protests against corruption and senseless killing, but the demonstrations must [also] not to ignore the Baathist party, Al Qaeda, and enemies of the doctrine”.
However the scene is not without its optimists, to the extent that one blogger commented: “I do not despair, for the Iraqi people will protect this country and its people, and the dignity of the Iraqis, as they are all the descendants of the 1920 Revolution [against the British]. We are with you and we are with every Iraqi who wants the best for his homeland. We are with you, my dear brothers, against all corrupt politicians and thieves, we raise our voices against all that is happening to Iraq and its people, against everything that is against humanity. Our people deserve prosperity and the people of Iraq will achieve this.”
It is not just ordinary Iraqi citizens who are calling for demonstrations, some of the country’s intellectuals have begun to put forward their views on this subject. Iraqi poet Hamid Qassim wrote “some say the Iraqi situation does not resemble what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, because of the security situation here, which may eventually lead the country into the abyss once again, and this is true. However the situation calls for peaceful protests on the streets every day, against the security forces who do not protect us from killers, and who infringe on our freedoms and rights. [We must protest] against officials and politicians acting as corrupt thieves, against unemployment, fraud, and a lack of electricity and services. We must raise our voices until those in power tremble with fear. Do not be afraid, thieves are usually cowards”.
Whilst poet Hashim al-Aqabi, who resides in Cairo, wrote the following on his Facebook page: “Even Iraqi children know that the Iraqis must rise up against the corruption that has engulfed their country…[there is] poverty, hunger and unemployment, amidst a security situation where services have declined to the extent that at times they are non-existent. Yet before all of this, there is a constitution which is supposed to govern the actions of those who run political affairs, from the lowest levels of state administration to the Prime Minister. This constitution recognizes that we have a democratic system of government, and clearly permits our right to demonstrate peacefully. Now we are see the people of Egypt rise up courageously against an unjust constitution, single party rule, and unilateral power; what is preventing the Iraqis from such a revolution? Were we not the first people to demonstrate and break down the walls of fear? In summary, I would like to say that if people are not paying attention to their daily injuries they should heed the words of [famous Iraqi poet] al-Mutanabbi who wrote “someone who is insulted once is easily insulted again, for only the dead feel no pain.” God forbid the Iraqi people dying from such repeated injury.
He added “What began as a light breeze has transformed into a raging storm, shaking us to our core, and urging us to revolt. It is only natural for the people of Iraq to be affected in this way, for we were the first Arab people to rise up and confront the most fascist and bloodthirsty regime in the world, following the occupation of Kuwait. I don’t think that any Iraqi monitoring the events in Egypt can forget the pain we felt during the 1991 uprisings [against Saddam Hussein].”
Another Iraqi citizen commented that the statement issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki about the demonstrations during a press conference in Baghdad represented “a pre-emptive strike against those who want to demonstrate.” Al-Maliki had said “it is not out of the question that demonstrations take place in the Iraqi street along the lines of what is happening in some Arab states” adding that “some of these demonstrations, should they take place [in Iraq], will be genuine because of a lack of services, however others will be conducted under the guidance and support of certain elements.”