Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Iraq

The protests in Iraq kicked off on February 12, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Iraq is a country that has become really ingrained in American journalism. Even when the story isn't about Iraq, our recent history with Iraq is referenced as well. Our intervention in the country after 9/11 prompted the exact violence and civil war that people warn may happen in other countries as a result of these protests. But finally Iraqis seems to take their own future into their hands and began having their own homegrown protests. I've been looking forward to covering this country's protests because they aren't being orchestrated by Americans.

Basic History
Iraq's official name is the Republic of Iraq. Geographically, it is located in western Asia, and is considered a Middle East country. Important bordering countries include: Jordan, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The capital is Baghdad. The population is estimated at 31.2 million people.. The official languages are Arabic and Kurdish.

Iraq's most recent leader is President Jalal Talabani. He's been in power since he was elected in December 2005. The government is setup as a federal parliamentary republic. They have a President and Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is Nouri al-Maliki. The Prime Minister is selected by the Presidency Council and then he chooses the rest of the members of the Council of Ministers. The Presidency Council includes the President and two members of the National Assembly of Iraq. The National Assembly of Iraq was chosen by election in 2005. Their current constitution has been in place since October 2005. Elections in Iraq have mostly come down along ethnic lines, splitting the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

In terms of  independence, Iraq has had several types of independence. The first was from the Ottoman Empire in 1919. The British invaded during World War I and Iraq was then under control of the United Kingdom until 1932. That year, they worked out a deal with the British so the British could maintain military bases in the country, but Iraq became a kingdom with Kings, passing down rule mainly from father to son. This lasted until 1958, when Iraq became a republic through a coup d'etat. By 1979, the country was under the rule of Saddam Hussein. He was in power until the American invasion in 2003. As I said in the previous paragraph, the current form of the Iraqi government was setup in 2005.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: unemployment, government corruption, and access to public services.

Iraq's leadership suspected that the unrest in the Middle East and Africa might spread to their country. In an effort to avoid the protests, the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki announced that he would not run for re-election in 2014. The protests still happened, beginning February 12th in urban areas around Iraq, including the capital city of Baghdad.

As February wore on, there were protests across Iraq, mostly against local provincial governors, demanding their ouster. The government responded harshly and a number of protesters were injured and/or killed. The protesters were mostly upset about the lack of electricity and water. This makes sense as a legitimate concern because before the American invasion, electricity was free and widely available all throughout Iraq.

February 23rd was a big day because of a handful of top Iraqi military officials resigning and joining the protest movement. They made their resignations public and encouraged people to come out and join the protest scheduled for February 25th. That day came and the protests were all over Iraq. The protesters forced the resignation of several local officials. Also, some of them organized a prison break. The protests had the most violent clashes in the northern part of Iraq.

After the protest, hundreds were arrested. The protests seem to have diminished since then because of the deaths from the 25th. The unrest is still continuing, but no major changes have been made at the top. The Prime Minister has said that any ministers who are not fulfilling their duties will be removed and it has been proposed that provincial elections be brought forward by two years.

I don't know what will happen next for this country, but I hope they get settled down in a way that gives the citizens the things they demand. Giving them water and electricity shouldn't be something they have to protests by the thousands to accomplish.
More information can be found at reuters.com, http://www.youtube.com/, and wikipedia.org.

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