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In Iraq, the fear of a new civil war is growing


Thousands of people take to the streets in Iraq against corruption and mismanagement. The security forces react by force - and so continue to fuel the protests. Threatens another violent conflict?

Since Wednesday, parts of Iraq are without Internet, most people in Baghdad still have no access to social media. It is not because of technical problems. The government has apparently ordered the mobile phone companies to cut the service. It wants to prevent people from networking with each other - against the political leadership.

In many cities of Iraq, there have been fierce protests for days. It is above all the regions that were not bombed in the war against the "Islamic State" in the center and south of the country that are now revolting. They demand political reforms, an end to corruption, jobs.

In the meantime, more than 30 demonstrators have been shot and hundreds injured. The security forces react with great severity. Iraqi journalists report on minute-long shots with live ammunition at demonstrators. The government has imposed a curfew. But she still does not seem to be able to regain control of the situation.

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"Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has no choice but to resign, even though he himself is not at the heart of the problem," says Ahmed Saadawi, Iraqi writer and political observer of his country. "He was merely deployed in office as the facade of those who truly have power and who have not been elected, but who can rely on money, arms, or religious prestige."

Iraq is a young, dynamic country - most of the 40 million or so Iraqis are under 24. But they have little say in the future. While there are regular elections, the country is not considered particularly free: "In practice, corruption and security threats prevent democratic governance," writes Freedom House, a US organization that rates democracy and freedom worldwide.

The current Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was a compromise candidate, after which the various parties and militias setting the tone in Iraq agreed after lengthy negotiations.

Maria Fantiappi, Iraq expert of the think tank International Crisis Group, has long seen a growing gap between the street and the political leadership in Iraq. "It needs future leaders who are more mixed than those who have been directing the country since 2003." The current escalation looks at her with great concern. "In the already tense situation in the region, protests could jeopardize the survival of the government and further destabilize the country."

By doing so, Fantiappi means the escalating conflict in the region between Iran and the US and Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi government is closely allied with both Washington and Tehran, and is affected by the conflict.

Add to this Iraq's persistent domestic problems: corruption and mismanagement, persistently high levels of youth unemployment, electricity and water scarcity, fears of a return of the "Islamic State". Fantiappi believes that any small concessions made by the government could only temporarily soothe the demonstrators. It threatens a new major outburst.

Prime Minister Mahdi had already announced in a televised speech on Friday that the demonstrators' demands for comprehensive reforms and jobs were justified. He promised that the government would do more to fight corruption.

"These days of blood and anger should not be underestimated," Ahmad Saadawi believes. He compares the situation in Iraq with the Arab Spring of 2011, which led to the overthrow of some corrupt permanent regents and in several countries to a civil war. Iraq is having a decisive moment right now. "The truly powerful need to understand how important it is to respond to the demands of the demonstrators," Saadawi believes. "Otherwise, the situation will continue to deteriorate."

Source: spiegel

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