Iraq Enters a State of Turmoil – Mass Demonstration Planned for Friday of Rage

Recent events in the Middle East and, in particular, the ongoing violent suppression by the Qadhafi regime of the revolt in Libya, have attracted most of recent media attention, while the brewing turmoil in Iraq appears to have remained below the radar. But a big shock may be in the offing.

Throughout February, there have almost been daily demonstrations in many Iraqi cities, mostly nonviolent, except for the demonstrations in the last few days in the city of Suleimaniya in the province of Kurdistan in which two have died and 124 have been injured. All the as-yet-local demonstrations were against the widespread corruption at all levels of government and the security forces; high unemployment; rising prices of food supplies; and poor public services, particularly the severe shortage of electricity and inadequate supply of potable water.

Corruption in Iraq has become legendary. A week ago, the Integrity Commission announced that it was suing hundreds of government employees for embezzlement of $30 billion. Shortly thereafter, the Iraqi Parliament appointed two special committees to investigate the “disappearance” of $41 billion from the Iraqi Development Fund. It is possible that elements of the two figures overlap, but the order of magnitude of the corruption is stirring the Iraqi street, which is clamoring for change.

Marching on Baghdad – One Million Marchers

In “Proclamation No. 1,” issued February 20, organizers referring to themselves as “the Youth of February 25” but remaining unnamed are calling for a one-million-marcher demonstration, planned for Friday, February 25 (the day of rage). The date chosen by the youth movement may have to do with the “January 25 Revolution” in Egypt. The idea of Proclamation No. 1 is also significant. In the long turbulent history of the Middle East, “Proclamation No. 1” usually signals the launch of a coup by the military; it was also the tool used by the Egyptian High Command to announce their takeover the government of Egypt upon the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

The February 20 Proclamation No. 1 calls on the Iraqi population to support the uprising [intifada] of the youth for a brighter future for the Iraqis, and for bringing to trial those who stole the nation’s wealth. The proclamation insists that Iraq will become “neither a Taliban state nor wilayat al-faqih [the “rule of the jurisprudent – a reference to the clerical regime in Iran.] Most notable is the appeal to the security forces not to direct their weapons against “your sons and brothers. Defend them and support them. They are your future.” The organizers said that all the banners carried by the demonstrators will be in support of an independent and unified Iraq and will be devoid of sectarianism.