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Rudaw

Iraq

Official corruption worse than Saddam’s genocide, Baghdad protesters say

By HEVIDAR AHMED 30/4/2016
Protesters at Tahrir Square. Rudaw photo.
Protesters at Tahrir Square. Rudaw photo.
BAGHDAD, Iraq – ”You see this?” says the taxi driver as he points to a grimy two-storey building enclosed by tall concrete walls that are thought to protect it from possible bombings in the Iraqi capital.

“This was built by Saddam,” he explains, as we pass Baghdad’s downtown neighborhoods and continue our trip to Tahrir Square, where angry protesters have gathered over the past months and threatened to take matters in their own hands if Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s government does not deal with corruption.

Last week, the embattled prime minister announced a partial reshuffle of his cabinet.

Iraq has repeatedly topped the list of the least transparent nations in the past decade, where widespread corruption has made it almost impossible to run the government.

According to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) reported by Transparency International, Iraq was the least transparent country in 2007 of the total of 178 nations listed in the index, followed by Afghanistan and Somalia.

Iraq was still among the 16 most corrupt nations in last year’s CPI ranking.
 
Perhaps this is partly the reason why people, both Shiites and Sunnis, in the Iraqi capital speak almost tenderly about the nostalgic past: Iraq’s genocidal ruler Saddam Hussein turned Baghdad into a leading city among Arab capitals with highly modern infrastructure, but mostly at the expense of other cities in the country.

“This street was as clean as a piece of crystal,” the driver says as we approach the square. “Saddam took Hugo Chavez here and walked down this street with him,” he says, referring to the late Venezuelan leader who visited Iraq in early 2000.

At Tahrir Square, furious demonstrators have prepared hanging ropes and threatened to execute any corrupt official that their flamboyant leader Muqtada al-Sadr finds guilty of embezzlement.

The powerful young Shiite cleric has already ordered the arrest of one of his own ranking officials, charging him with corruption.

“Our master Muqtada is in Baghdad now and if he allows us we will begin with this bank and give the money to the people,” says an armed man in military uniform, as he points to the nearby Al-Rafidain building, Iraq’s largest investment bank.

Sadr, whose Ahrar party has 34 seats in the Iraqi parliament and its own military security, left his holy hometown of Najaf last month and joined his faithful supporters in Tahrir Squre to make sure the government implements his proposed reform plans.

Tahrir, which means freedom and was renamed after Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, is only minutes away from the heavily fortified Green Zone, where almost all senior officials, including the prime minister and the president, live.

“Saddam built this neighborhood and these people have occupied it,” another protester says, referring to government officials who live in the Green Zone, which contains dozens of luxury palaces and hotels.

“Cruel decisions were made in these palaces when Saddam was in charge,” another protester intervenes. “And now Iraq’s riches are being stolen by people in the same palaces,” he says.

With over $700 billion of revenues from oil exports since 2003, Iraq is considered a wealthy nation, not only regionally but also according to world standards. Nonetheless, the country is still suffering from lack of basic services such as electricity and healthcare.

“No one knows where the money is, it’s probably not even in the country,” a young university student says.

“You’ll see how we put handcuffs on these criminals and throw them in the garbage bin of history,” the young demonstrator says before joining the crowd again and loudly chanting, “Protest today; revolt tomorrow.”

Comments

 
beetleking | 30/4/2016
In coming Iraqi is failed state comment.
Knight Poet | 1/5/2016
And so the American-led invasion of Iraq has taught our planet a most valuable lesson. An ancient culture that has slowly evolved over an extended period of time cannot and should not be replaced by something newer and different that even those with the best of intentions think is a better way of doing things. At least 100,000 civilian men, women and children were killed in Iraq from this military obliteration of the established government of an independent country that had even opened its doors to UN weapons inspections at the time. The loss of their lives was no less significant than each and every soldier from all sides who was killed. I don't remember those numbers even though the military casualties were the only ones I ever heard reported on CNN or FOX news along with most other American news networks (ABC + NBC + CBS). The difference is that tens of thousands of cute little Iraqi babies who just learned to crawl the day before they were exploded into hundreds of unrecognizable body parts didn't sign up to fight wars based on wherever their nationalistic leaders ordered them to go into battle and kill people. Now I know Saddam was no saint but he was successful at using fear to maintain some semblance of law and order in his country. Was he a ruthless dictator? Let's put it this way. If I was living in his country before gravity and rope abruptly ended his mortal journey and he realized I place my Father-God above him based on my spiritual allegiance that takes precedence over nationalistic loyalty and that furthermore no threats of punishment or even death itself could ever change this, my head would have probably suffered the same fate as John the Baptist minus the fancy platter. So yes, I would not have invited Saddam Hussein to be my friend on Facebook. He wasn't a very nice guy no matter how you look at it. But nice guys usually don't wind up ruling dictatorships. And it took generations of his civilian and governmental predecessors to establish the society that he was entrusted to lead. Good or bad, right or wrong, that is just how things ended up following the natural course of evolution. And because of false allegations of being in possession of weapons of mass destruction, he was summarily judged, convicted and executed (not to mention stripped off his dictatorship) without even being given his day in international court to defend himself against the criminal (war crime) charges facing him, the same ones that were disproven later on when it was already too late to press any UNDO button or go back in time to let things continue to progress there slowly but surely moving in a positive direction. I thought it was considered a war crime to attack another country unjustly. Is that not the case? Even worse is that no one as in no nation or country has ever been held accountable for this shameful travesty of international justice. Why is that? What kind of a civilized world does something like that and then shoves it under the rug of forgetfulness? Does our planet really have a short-term memory problem like someone afflicted with dementia? Is not what is happening today in Iraq the harvest of chaos from the seeds of injustice planted in the garden of the past? Had only the true teachings of Jesus, the same ones lost among the religions today that bear His name, that we are all God's kids, regardless of our status in this world, been nurtured and embraced on a global scale, war itself would have been condemned and banned if not entirely outlawed across the planet decades if not centuries ago. Why can't Muslims and Jews, Christians and Buddhists, and everyone else of any religious faith or the lack thereof, set aside their differences once and for all to realize a common thread of spiritual cohesiveness that binds all the religions of the world together? I speak of the realization of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man that is the only planetary path that will ever lead us all to true and lasting world peace, a place where our children and our childrens' children won't have to sign their death certificates in their own blood!
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