• Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Solidarity from Iraq: We want to breathe, too

  • Published at 12:33 pm June 6th, 2020
Iraqi protesters
Iraqi protesters use half barrels as shields during an anti-government demonstration in the central shrine city of Najaf on June 3, 2020 AFP

Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable -- mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US

Seventeen years after US troops invaded their country and eight months since protests engulfed their cities, Iraqis are sending solidarity, warnings and advice to demonstrators across America.

Whether in Baghdad's Tahrir Square or on Twitter, Iraqis are closely watching the unprecedented street protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis as a police officer knelt on his neck.

"I think what the Americans are doing is brave and they should be angry, but rioting is not the solution," said Yassin Alaa, a scrawny 20-year-old camped out in Tahrir.

Only a few dozen Iraqis remain in tents in the capital's main protest square, which just months ago saw security forces fire tear gas and live bullets at demonstrators, who shot back with rocks or occasionally Molotov cocktails.

Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable -- mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say.

Now, they want to share their lessons learned.

"Don't set anything on fire. Stay away from that, because the police will treat you with force right from the beginning and might react unpredictably," Alaa told AFP.

And most importantly, he insisted, stick together.

"If blacks and whites were united and they threw racism away, the system can never stop them," he said.

Common 'injustice'

Across their country, Iraqis spotted parallels between the roots of America's protests and their own society.

"In the US it's a race war, while here it's a war of politics and religion," said Haider Kareem, 31, who protested often in Tahrir and whose family lives in the US.

"But the one thing we have in common is the injustice we both suffer from," he told AFP.

Iraq has its own history of racism, particularly against a minority of Afro-Iraqis in the south who trace their roots back to East Africa.

In 2013, leading Afro-Iraqi figure Jalal Thiyab was gunned down in the oil-rich city of Basra -- but discrimination against the community is otherwise mostly non-violent.

"Our racism is different than America's racism," said Ali Essam, a 34-year-old Afro-Iraqi who directed a wildly popular play about Iraq's protests last year.

"Here, we joke about dark skin but in America, being dark makes people think you're a threat," he told AFP.

Solidarity is spreading online, too, with Iraqis tweaking their own protest chants and slogans to fit the US.

In one video, an elderly Iraqi is seen reciting a "hosa" or rhythmic chant, used to rally people into the streets last year and now adapted to an American context.

"This is a vow, this a vow! Texas won't be quiet now," he bellowed, before advising Americans to keep their rallies independent of foreign interference -- mimicking a US government warning to Iraqis last year.  

Others shared the hashtag "America Revolts."

Another Arabic hashtag going viral in Iraq translates as "We want to breathe, too", referring to Floyd's last words.

'Reminiscent of Baghdad'

Not all the comparisons have been uplifting, however.

The governor of Minnesota, the state in which Minneapolis is located, said the US street violence "was reminiscent of Mogadishu or Baghdad."

And the troops briefly deployed by US President Donald Trump to quell unrest in Washington were from the 82nd Airborne -- which had just returned from duty in Iraq.

"Trump is using the American army against the American people," said Democrat presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.

Iraqis have fought back online, tweeting "Stop associating Baghdad with turmoil," in response to comparisons with their homeland.

Others have used biting sarcasm.

In response to videos of crowds breaking into shops across US cities, Iraqis have dug up an infamous quote by ex-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"Lawlessness and looting is a natural consequence of the transition from dictatorship to a free country," he said in response to a journalist's question on widespread looting and chaos in Baghdad following the 2003 US-led invasion.

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail