As the Arab Revolutions swept across the Middle East and North Africa in late 2010 and into 2011, Iraqis were confronted with the failures of their own democracy to deliver on the many promises made to them since 2003. This led to weeks of scattered protests across Iraq, culminating in the “Day of Rage” (February 25, 2011) in which thousands of protestors took to the streets in at least 17 separate demonstrations across the country following Friday prayers. On the surface, these protests shared much in common with others across the region: the use of Facebook and other social media to promote the protests, and the focus on corruption, unemployment and poor public infrastructure. Also similar was the reaction of key Iraqi political figures such as Maliki and Barzani who met Iraqi protests with a mixture of brutal suppression and modest political and economic concessions. However, as this paper will demonstrate, upon closer inspection the Iraqi protests are in fact very different to others across the MENA and are therefore among the most significant for the future of democracy in the region. The Iraqi people were not protesting against an autocratic regime or an entrenched monarchy that had held power for decades, but a relatively new – and supposedly ‘democratic’ - political elite who had been brought to power in the wake of the US invasion. Indeed, while protestors across the region called for more democracy in the form of a written constitution, free and fair elections, a robust media sphere and the rule of law, Iraqis were protesting against the failures of the Iraqi government to democratise such mechanisms of governance (all of which they more or less have). They felt routinely disenfranchised by a state that has manipulated the very institutions and discourses of democracy to retain, rather than diffuse, power.
Field of Research
200206 Globalisation and Culture
Socio Economic Objective
940201 Civics and Citizenship
HERDC Research category
E2 Full written paper - non-refereed / Abstract reviewed