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KT Edit: Iraq should be wary of sectarianism on the road to reconciliation

Published: Sun 6 Oct 2019, 10:50 PM

Last updated: Mon 7 Oct 2019, 12:51 AM

Widespread poverty, unemployment, and corruption have crippled life in Iraq and is forcing its young population to pour their anger onto the streets to demand what should be their basic right in the first place. When communication with government fails, protests become the preferred vehicles to seek attention of leaders. The protestors, majorly from the Shia population, feel they have been left behind while other sects have benefitted more from Iraq's improving economic condition. They are calling for reforms. These young Iraqis are frustrated with pervasive corruption that has corroded every institution in the country. They are infuriated over the lack of employment opportunities which are arguably the only means to improve living conditions. They are vexed at the lack of basic amenities such as uninterrupted electricity. It's not too much to ask for. Come to think of it, why should an oil-rich country suffer poverty at this scale anyway? Iraq is among the top producers of oil. It's the second biggest in Opec, and yet the Adel Abdul Mahdi government hasn't been able to steer the country to a better future. Yes, Iraq was ravaged by war but collective efforts by international community have put the country back on its feet.
Despite foreign aid, the government has so far failed to turn its military victory over Daesh into social gains. Almost 60 per cent of the population of 40 million is aged under 24. With education and opportunities to remain gainfully employed, the youth can help rebuild Iraq in a more constructive manner. Yet, they are on the streets escalating the protests into the worst civil unrest since 2017. Shutting down the Internet and imposing a curfew might help now, but it would not resolve the issue. True, there is no magic formula to solve the country's problems immediately, like Mahdi noted in his speech late on Thursday. But there can be ways to improve the conditions of people, and the government would do well to explore and discuss them rather than just highlight the obvious. The Mahdi government should ensure sectarian divide in Iraq doesn't erode the gains made thus far.

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