What Iraqis wish for 2020

Iraqis welcomed the new year, as did other people around the world, with fireworks. However, many of their wishes for the new year were political.
Sunday 05/01/2020
Fed up with foreign meddling. Iraqi anti-government protesters burn an Iranian flag during protests in Baghdad.  (AP)
Fed up with foreign meddling. Iraqi anti-government protesters burn an Iranian flag during protests in Baghdad. (AP)

BASRA, Iraq - 2019 has ended and still Iraqis in Baghdad and southern provinces are taking to the streets demanding wide-scale political changes and getting rid of external intervention, notably Iran.

At least 450 people have been killed and more than 25,000 injured since anti-government protests began October 1.

Parliament failed to nominate a suitable candidate to replace caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned in December following pressure from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

The names suggested by the current political parties to replace Abdul-Mahdi were rejected by protesters.

The turn of the year witnessed the US Embassy in Baghdad coming under attack by supporters of pro-Iran militias protesting US air strikes targeting Al-Hashed al-Shaabi.

Iraqis welcomed the new year, as did other people around the world, with fireworks. However, many of their wishes for the new year were political.

Safaa Ghali, a photographer in Basra, said he hoped in 2020 that the government would “meet the demands of the protesters.” “The biggest wish I have is having a new, good government that will rebuild what the current government destroyed,” he said.

Ahmed Sadiq, a 30-year-old from Basra, said he wanted Iraqi citizens to be treated with respect. “I will be more than happy if we were ruled by a government that offers equal rights and respects its people; a government that is loyal to our country, not to any other countries,” he said.

For Noor Awad, a 28-year-old resident of Basra, peace was the priority.

“Of course, my first wish is for peace to spread in Iraq and all over the world,” she said. “Iraqis have suffered from wars for decades: the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, the Gulf War and sanctions in the 1990s, the US-led invasion of 2003, the rise of the Islamic State and its occupation of a third of Iraqi territory in 2014.”

For 2020, Awad said she wished that “my sons would feel safe and never see any weapons, whether in television or in reality.”

Mohammed al-Alwan, a 24-year-old from Basra, also said he does not like the sight of weapons, especially those carried by Iran-backed militiamen.

“I do not have personal wishes, all I would like to see is Iraq recovered and that the country has no armed groups,” said Alwan. “I want all those who were arrested or jailed to be released and the government to name the protesters’ killers and punish them, not to forget their justice.”

Zahraa Hani, a rights activist from Najaf, said she wished for Iraq to be a place where peace and prosperity prevail. “My wishes are not different than those of any other Iraqi, we wish to live in peace, which we have been deprived of for decades. We wish our country would have in 2020 a suitable government and patriotic politicians that give us our basic rights,” she said.

For Mahmoud Abdulwahhab, a resident of Diyala, the list of wishes for 2020 is long. “I hope we will get many things in the new year, including peace, freedom of expression, jobs, infrastructure, clean water supply and continuous electricity,” he said.

“I want a political class that comes from the people and who knows very well our needs, listens to what we say and cares about us,” he added.

Diyar Mohammed Khalil, a 24-year-old Kurdish man from Sulaymaniyah, said he wanted Iraq to be secure and stable so he could tour the country.

“I wish that I could just visit all my country’s cities and proudly check in those places in my social media apps. I would head to Baghdad, then continue south, stopping at the historical places in Babel, and later go to the Ahwar (marshes) and enjoy a peaceful day doing a boat tour and having great tea, looking at the stars,” said Khalil.

“I would continue the trip to Basra to try all their seafood for the first time in my life. I hope I won’t be asked about my ethnicity, religion, tribe or even which party I voted for the last time,” added Khalil.

Hayder Muhi, a 20-year-old from the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, said he hoped the country would be united.

“We want a united country, not a divided one, from the south to the north,” said Muhi. “I wish happiness to all the Iraqi people, I do not want to see anyone killed, wounded or living in poverty. I hope to see joy not sorrow, smiles not tears.”

Iraqis in Baghdad and southern provinces celebrated Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani’s death. Many Iraqis blame Soleimani for what has happened in Iraq and some say he was the “secret president” of Iraq.

Mohammed Raad, a 35-year-old protester from Basra, said: “Killing Soleimani did not move a hair from our body or affect continuity of the demonstrations. We will keep holding the streets to get the government we want. I think it is the best news I heard in 2020.

“I am so happy after hearing of the killing of Soleimani. He called us ‘vandalised protesters.’ Anyone who killed the peaceful protesters, I hope his fate will be like Soleimani’s fate.”

“They [Iran-backed militias] carried all kinds of weapons to kill us, while we were only holding the Iraqi flag,” Raad added. “Soleimani is from Iran, why was he killed in Baghdad? I never agreed to use Iraq as a battle zone for the United States and Iran. If they want to fight, they have to battle on their lands, not on ours.”