What average Iraqis want for 2019

Iraqis celebrated from Basra, the most southern point of the country, to Dohuk in the north, under heavy security.
Sunday 06/01/2019
Fireworks erupt in the sky during the 2019 new year celebrations in the Iraqi southern city of Basra. (AFP)
Hopes for better days. Fireworks erupt in the sky during the 2019 New Year celebrations in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. (AFP)

ISTANBUL - 2018 has ended and still Iraqi cities freed from the Islamic State (ISIS) are not rebuilt and what Mosul received for reconstruction is not a guarantee it will return to what it once was.

In 2014, when ISIS emerged in Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians fled their homes and went into Basra. Thousands of families are also living in camps in northern Iraq.

Millions of tonnes of debris flood Mosul and more than 63,000 families are displaced inside and around the city, figures released last July by the Norwegian Refugee Council indicate.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet has not been formed amid conflicts between the Shia blocs and under the Iranian intervention to include Falih Alfayyadh in the cabinet.

Since June, demonstrations in southern Iraq have led to torching of political parties’ headquarters, a governmental building in Basra and the Iranian consulate to protest Iranian influence. Protesters’ demands were about the basic life requirements — clean water, electricity and employment.

Many protesters were killed and hundreds wounded. Activists and journalists received death threats from Iran-backed militias.

People in 18 Iraqi provinces took to the streets and markets to celebrate the New Year of 2019. They gathered from different religions and backgrounds to express their love of peace, tolerance and brotherhood and hopes for the New Year.

The fireworks began when the clock struck midnight December 31. Iraqis celebrated from Basra, the most southern point of the country, to Dohuk in the north, under heavy security and despite prominent muftis saying that participation in New Year’s celebrations is not permissible for Muslims.

“I wish 2019 [to] be better than 2018,” said Ahmed Sadiq, a resident of Basra. “I hope the one who leads Iraq will be a patriotic man and not who works for his party and his group and I want the government that places the Iraqi passport on the top of global passport index.

“Where can I find this president?” Sadiq asked. “Why does Iran intervene with Iraq issues while Iraq never does that in turn?”

Ali Suhail Najm, an Iraqi martial arts trainer in the Netherlands, said in an interview via Facebook messenger: “My wish for 2019 is that the government reinforces the law to take its real place in the entire country because within the law [other] countries had been built and developed and the people lived in peace.”

Mohammad Qassim, 23, an Iraqi living in Turkey, said in an interview: “Security is one of the core things I hope [to have] in 2019 but more than security I need freedom of speech and freedom to choose my identity regardless of race, religion or orientation, I want a constitution that achieves all our rights because, as Iraqis, we are all equals.”

“I hope there will be a strong government to keep Iraq and its people living safely and here I do not mean strong in muscles but a brawny government that has a strong willingness to make Iraq great,” said Hassan Madhloom, a journalist in Basra.

“And about Basra, I hope [it] will be an independent province like Kurdistan region. It is a constitutional right for the people to benefit [from] oil produced in Iraq’s richest city, Basra.”

Christian activist Ivan Yacoub, who moved to Basra when ISIS entered Mosul, said: “I wish all the Christians [could] return home but they will not unless the government provide security, so many Christian families fled homes when they faced obstacles and difficulties, I hope Iraq’s constitution embodies the dignity and safe life for all, not only for religious people, even those who are unreligious.”

Iraqi oudist Ali Mishari said in a speech he wished for Iraq to be artistically revived at it once was a mainstream of art, creativity and music. “Despite the challenges we faced, we are still fighting to deliver the real art aims of spreading peace worldwide.”

“Seeing theatres in Iraq has become my American dream. Politicians killed the art soul in the community. The art is not of less importance than any other work. Countries [have] risen up by their artists and cultured people.”

Ammar al-Aboodi, a political analyst, said: “I think that Iraq will remain under the external impact that will negatively reflect on the performance of Iraqi government, where many of neighbouring countries compete to get a control on Iraq.”

“The annual budget did not give enough money to rebuild the cities that were evacuated by the Islamic State and people in Mosul are suffering…  to regain their homes,” Aboodi added. “Even [though] there is compensation for families to rebuild their houses, a slow routine processes system obstructs the completion of Mosul’s rebuilding in 2019.”

Samah Salah, 23, complained of joblessness. “I know it is not a wish. It is a right that I suppose to get it after my graduation from college but getting a job has become a dream,” he said. “This is what I wish for 2019. I studied days and nights and for four years in college physical education and sport sciences and, at the end, I got nothing.”

Their wishes varied but most Iraqis interviewed said they would like Iran’s intervention in the country to end and for Tehran to stop being involved in every internal matter in Iraq.

During preparations for New Year celebrations in Al Ashar market in Basra, Um Noor said: “I buy a Christmas tree to celebrate Christmas Eve and buy sweets to celebrate with my family in New Year celebrations. May 2019 be a good year and may peace come to all of Iraq.”