Over 300 Dead, 15,000 Injured in Iraqi Government Protests as Corruption, Rate of Unemployment Increases; Church Advocates for Justice

Women demonstrators hold Iraqi flags as they take part in a protest over corruption, lack of jobs, and poor services, in Baghdad, Iraq October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Iraq’s young people have had enough, so they took to the streets to let the government know they’re unhappy. The response was brutal.

After repeated clashes with security forces since October 1, the toll is now at 15,000 injured and over 300 dead. Samuel* is a spokesman for Redemptive Stories, a Christian ministry reaching several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq. He says there was initially a lot of hope after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the restructuring of the government. After all, “In terms of natural resources, you have one of the most wealthy countries in the world.”

Yet its people struggled. In 2011, the Arab Spring uprising began, and many felt empowered to speak up about their situation. Yet the fulfillment of promises never quite happened in Iraq. “I think that tension that they feel of being deprived of what their country has to offer has been building for many years. Now we see the result of that.”

Hope deferred

Today, the frustration comes from the hijacked futures of young people who did what they thought they were supposed to do for success. Study hard, go to college, get a degree, get a job. For these adults, aged 20 to 35, unemployment is almost at 50-percent. “Many of them are like, ‘I’m trying to get married; I want to have a family; I want to move on to the next steps of my life, but I can’t, because I can’t get a job.’” For them, there is no future. Jobs are scarce, Samuel says. “Teachers, for instance: they have, in some provinces, a waiting list of 500 people in one little town, just even get hired on as a teacher.”

All of that adds to the tension, he explains. Then, “Throw in with that a lovely mix of severe corruption– payments, bribes—how you can make anything happen with a little extra money in your pocket, and how that system preys on the impoverished—and people are rising and speaking into the unjustness of their situation.”

Protestors initially called for more jobs and better infrastructure. Those demands soon grew to include new electoral laws and accounting from government leaders, starting with ‘cleaning the house.’ Not satisfied with anti-corruption demands, the calls for ouster soon included the Prime Minister, as well as a complete overhaul of the political system.

But will the protests make any difference? Getting a do-over when it comes to a government is a pretty tall order. Samuel agrees. “That which are they’re asking for it so large and so seemingly far-fetched from where they are right now, that I don’t know what simple steps the government could put in place that would enact real change that they would be happy with.”

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SOURCE: Mission Network News, R.B. Klama