On Monday, March 20, 2023, Iraqis remember the twenty years since the American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, and marked the beginning of a bloody era in which conflicts successively occurred. While Iraqis have regained some calm, they still look cautiously, tinged with much anxiety, into the future.
In a reflection of the Iraqis turning the page on the American invasion, neither the central government nor the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq organized any activities for the occasion.
Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani stopped during a dialogue conference in Baghdad under the title “Iraq twenty years…and what next?” Sunday at the “twentieth anniversary of the fall of the dictatorial regime,” saying, “We remember the pain and suffering of our people in those years that were dominated by senseless wars and systematic sabotage.”
On March 20, 2003, US President George W. Bush announced the launch of an operation dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, and the deployment of about 150,000 American and 40,000 British soldiers in Iraq, under the pretext of the presence of nuclear and chemical weapons of mass destruction on Iraqi soil that were not found. her one day.
Three weeks were enough, since the start of the operation, to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime, who was tightening his grip on power, and the Iraqis suffered in his time from wars and repression, to bring down his regime on the ninth of April.
“Signs of discontent”
However, this invasion launched a period of violence in the country’s history, from sectarian fighting to the domination of the Islamic State, which exhausted the country’s infrastructure and put many Iraqis in severe suffering.
And considered the “Human Rights Watch” in a report published Sunday that “the Iraqi people paid the highest price for the invasion.” The organization urged “the parties to the conflict to compensate the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable,” but “impunity still exists.”
From 2003 to 2011, the date of the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, according to the “Iraq War Victims” organization. In contrast, the United States lost nearly 4,500 personnel in Iraq.
Twenty years later, Iraqis have a margin of freedom and the right to hold democratic elections, while the country has begun to gradually open its doors to the world.
But amid this relative stability, the specter of lack of services and corruption lurks, which drives Iraqis to look pessimistically at the future, while at the same time the danger of climate change, water shortages and desertification looms on the horizon.
Al-Sudani acknowledged, during his speech, the existence of dissatisfaction with the “mismanagement and waste of money, which is growing.” “We have seen many signs of discontent with the inability of state institutions to reform and carry out their duties,” he said.
Last year, the United Nations Mission in Iraq denounced the existence of a “climate of fear and intimidation” that impedes freedom of opinion in Iraq.
“from bad to worse”
Although Iraq is an oil-rich country, a third of its 42 million population still lives in poverty, unemployment is high among the youth, and Iraqis are also protesting against political conflicts and Iranian influence in their country.
Many of them do not believe that the elections are capable of changing anything, which was reflected in the low participation rate in the early October 2021 elections, which came to stave off public anger after the unprecedented protests that were severely suppressed.
Abbas Muhammad, from Baghdad, believes that “the governments have failed to address corruption in the health and service aspects. We go from bad to worse. No government has given the people anything.”
On Sunday, Al-Sudani pledged to continue “combating the corruption pandemic.”
Iraq is still witnessing continuous political turmoil, with the dominance of a system of quotas and division of positions between Shiite parties in particular.
This disagreement became evident, especially in the aftermath of the 2021 elections, between the pro-Iranian camp and the cleric with volatile positions, Muqtada al-Sadr, and culminated in August 2022 with a day of bloody fighting in the heart of Baghdad.
“We were harmed by the previous regime… but until now we are being harmed. From bad to worse,” Muhammad al-Askari told AFP from a Baghdad street.
He added, “We rejoiced when the regime fell, because we thought that Iraq would improve… But so far we are affected. We hope that the future will be better, but the governments and parties do not let the people breathe.”