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 Iraqi Youth Stunted by Elites

اذهب الى الأسفل 
كاتب الموضوعرسالة
Dr.Hannani Maya
المشرف العام
المشرف العام

الدولة : العراق
الجنس : ذكر
عدد المساهمات : 41924
مزاجي : أحب المنتدى
تاريخ التسجيل : 21/09/2009
الابراج : الجوزاء
التوقيت :

مُساهمةموضوع: Iraqi Youth Stunted by Elites    الإثنين 18 أبريل 2011, 20:22

Iraqi Youth Stunted by Elites

Inspired by the democratic uprisings around the Arab world to push for change, young lawmakers in Parliament are running up against an ossified political elite still dominated by the exiles who followed American tanks into Iraq to establish a fragile, violence-scarred democracy.

On the streets, the voices of young demonstrators and journalists have been muted by the batons and bullets of elite security units that answer only to a prime minister who officials say personally sends orders by text message.An Iraq spring it is not.

In a country where the demographics skew even younger than in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, the wave of political change in the region has laid bare a generation gap here split by old resentments nurtured by dictatorship and war and a youthful grasping for a stake in the new Iraq. “The younger generation is ready to go forward; they are carrying less resentments,” said Rawaz M. Khoshnaw, 32, a Kurdish member of Parliament, in a recent interview.

But the forces of youth are blunted by the same forces that have robbed Iraqi society of so much for so long — violence, a stagnant economy, zero-sum politics and sectarianism — and that have prevented a new political class from emerging to take Iraq into a new democratic future.

A common sentiment from nearly three dozen interviews with young Iraqis around the country recently is a persistent disenchantment with both their political leaders and the way democracy has played out here. “The youth is the excluded class in the Iraqi community,” said Swash Ahmed, a 19-year-old law student in Kirkuk. “So they’ve started to unify through Facebook or the Internet or through demonstrations and evenings in cafes, symposiums and in universities. But they don’t have power.”

Iraq’s unity government is showing increased signs of splintering over an American-backed power-sharing agreement. If the government fractures and a narrow majority of Shiite parties led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a former exile, takes control, the result would be more divisiveness and potentially more violence.

For the young, it would be another sign of the difficulty in gaining a voice in Iraq’s democracy, and a counternarrative to the grand new history being written elsewhere in the Middle East.In Basra, Salah Mahmod, 18, said politicians here were “in love with power.”“We don’t have democracy, and the politicians have no idea what it means.”

But it is a measure of progress that these students can speak out freely and join in street protests. One small result is that bars reopened in Baghdad after being closed in January. “I do not want to be so negative about it,” said Shereen Ahmed, 19, who is studying to be a teacher in Anbar Province. “Yes, we are witnessing a small part of democracy now from what we see from the protests in Iraq. When Saddam was here, not even one Iraqi could go out in protest because he would be killed.”

Talal al-Zubai, 41, a lawmaker from the Iraqiya bloc — the coalition led by Ayad Allawi, who was handpicked by the Americans to be prime minister in 2005 and was once attacked in exile by ax-wielding assassins sent by Saddam Hussein — decided to form a youth bloc of Parliament members after witnessing the protests in the region and here.

He said that six had joined, and that 20 others had privately told him of their interest but were fearful of going public because “right now they are afraid of their leaders.”Mr. Zubai, a Sunni politician who recounts with pride the number of assassination attempts he has survived — three: by car bomb, roadside bomb and pistol — has no such fear, and he spoke openly about his disdain for the political elite during an interview in the foyer of Iraqiya’s office in Parliament.

“The problem is, those leaders have more power than we do,” said Mr. Zubai, who is working on his graduate studies at a college in Baghdad. “They have more money to use in elections. They have more power to use the army and police to consolidate power.”

In Iraq, the demographic trends that have underpinned the wave of democratic uprisings and altered the dynamics of power across the Middle East are more pronounced than in other countries. The median age in the country is 21, according to the C.I.A. World Factbook. In Egypt it is 24, and in Tunisia it is 30. Nearly 40 percent of the population here is 14 or under, compared with 33 percent in Egypt and Libya and 23 percent in Tunisia. The comparisons are similar for Bahrain and Syria.

Recently, a group of young Iraqis who used Facebook to organize protests in February to demand improved services gathered in Baghdad near a church where more than 60 Christians were killed late last year. The organizers spoke of being detained and beaten by security forces after the protests, of being called homosexuals and Baathists.Ali Abdul Zahra, a journalist, told of seeing his friend beaten as the officer asked, “Are you the Facebook guy?” The officer continued, according to Mr. Zahra: “You want freedom, huh? I’ll show you freedom.”

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Demo rules miff protesters

Anti-government protesters and sports officials in Baghdad formed an unlikely team on Friday, complaining about new rules banning street rallies in the capital.The recently announced regulations, which allow demonstrations in Baghdad only at three football stadiums, were ostensibly put in place after shopkeepers in the city's main Tahrir Square complained they were losing trade during weekly protests since late February.

"Why should we go to Al-Shaab stadium?" shouted 48-year-old Mohammed Abdul Amir, referring to Iraq's national football grounds. "Are we going to play a football match with the police?""No," he exclaimed during a rally at Tahrir Square. "We will demonstrate here!"The 200-odd protesters angrily flouting the new rules gathered inside a cordon surrounded by Iraqi soldiers, with all demonstrators and journalists frisked by security forces before entering.

"Today we broke the rules by coming here, because we regard this place as the parliament of the Iraqi people," said Hasna Faraj, a schoolteacher. "We will not listen to them (the authorities) -- we want to get rid of them."Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta announced on Wednesday that officials had barred street protests in the capital, restricting demonstrations to three stadiums.

The decision comes after regular rallies in the city against government corruption, unemployment and poor basic services, although Atta also cited complaints by shopkeepers who were losing business because security forces closed off Tahrir Square during demonstrations.

"If the main reason for protesting is for your voice to reach the officials and the government, then it would be the same whether you protested in Tahrir or anywhere else," said Kadhim Laftah, 38, who runs a photography shop on the square."Fridays, being holidays, give us a lot of sales, because lots of people come in. But since the protests started, we have lost a lot of business."

Laftah said Atta had come into his shop and asked for his reaction to the proposed relocation, and he responded positively.A restaurant owner on a road to Tahrir Square said that his own trade had not been affected by the weeks of protests, but he was concerned for fellow shopkeepers who were losing business.

"The decision is good," said Abu Haidar, the owner of the Al-Nafaq (The Taste) restaurant. "The shops on the square were closing during the demonstrations, it is good for them."Iraqis have staged regular protests since late February around the country, from the Kurdish north to the Shiite south, as demonstrations have swept across the Middle East.

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Iraq restricts protests

Iraqi officials have barred street protests in Baghdad, and restricted approved demonstration sites to three football stadiums in the capital, a security spokesman said on Wednesday.The decision comes after regular rallies in the city against government corruption, unemployment and poor basic services, among protests across the country following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

"We have specified Al-Shaab, Kashafa and Zawraa stadiums as permitted sites for demonstrations in Baghdad instead of Ferdus or Tahrir squares," the capital's security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta said at a news conference televised by state broadcaster Iraqiya TV.

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Iraqi Youth Stunted by Elites
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