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Iraqis speak of hopes for 2020 after year marked by violent unrest

People tell Middle East Eye they yearn for peace in the new year after hundreds killed in protests across the country
Said Abu Alaa, 66, writes 'Oh Allah, make Iraq safe' on the 'Wishes Wall' in Baghdad's Tahrir Square (MEE/Azhar Al-Rubaie)
By Azhar Al-Rubaie in Baghdad, Iraq

2019 was a tumultuous year for Iraq.

It drew to a close with citizens across the country taking to the streets in rejection of the government and its apparatus, as the political class failed to address their demands which began with unrest on 1 October.

The ongoing protests led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.

And on the last day of the year, thousands of protesters attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, after US air strikes in Iraq and Syria killed more than two dozen Iran-backed militia fighters.

As 2020 began, protesters and residents in several Iraqi provinces marked the "Tishren (October) Revolution", which had seen more than 450 people killed and around 25,000 injured, by putting up pictures of martyrs and decorating them with lights.

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In the capital, those who gathered in Tahrir Square kicked off the new year by erecting a "Wishes Wall", launched by a group of youths to offer a space for anyone to write his or her hopes.

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Middle East Eye spoke to Iraqis from across the country to find out what they are wishing for in 2020.

'To triumph over injustice'

Camping near Tahrir Square, 23-year-old Murtadha Hamoudi said: "As a protester and Iraqi local, I wish peace and security to Iraq and wish to get rid of all the political class.

"[I want] a government that gives equal rights to all Iraqis, a government without corruption and which heeds its people not outsiders.”

Mustafa Al-Ani, a 47-year-old Arabic language lecturer from Anbar, said: "I wish the word 'war' to be omitted from the dictionary and replaced by ‘peace’; moreover, I wish to get rid of the hostility and hate.

“I wish all the world to live in peace. 2019 was personally a turning point to a wide vision for life, and an intellectual turning point, and for rejecting all temptations that can be obtained by harming others.

“The year of 2019 was the year that illuminated generations to triumph over injustice and for this to be spread all over the world.”

'Our dreams are big, but our wishes are so simple'

Hussen Ali Abed, a 27-year-old from Basra, said: “I pray to God to achieve Iraqis' wishes for the new year of 2020.

"I hope all our wishes come true, living in peace and freedom of expression, jobs for youths, good infrastructure, clean water and electricity.

"May someone read what I say and think how our demands are so simple, but yes, such a corrupted government could not address them. Our dreams are big, but our wishes are so simple.”

Protesters in Tahrir Square put up pictures of martyrs and decorated them with lights (MEE/Azhar Al-Rubaie)
Protesters in Tahrir Square put up pictures of martyrs and decorated them with lights (MEE/Azhar Al-Rubaie)

Mohammed Qasim, a 24-year-old also from Basra, said: “I do not have personal wishes, all my dreams are for Iraq to recover from its pain. I wish our country to be the best one in the world, a country that has no militias, no corruption, no Muhasasa (the country's system of sectarian appointments).

“I want to finish 2020 with no arrests, no assassinations and no killings, and away from all the bad things that had happened in 2019.”

'A peaceful day doing a boat tour'

Diyar Mohammed Khalil, a 24-year-old Kurd from Sulaymaniyah, said: “I wish that I could just go and visit all the cities in my country.

"As someone from the northern region, I wish that I can take a one week trip starting from Baghdad, eat the delicious food there and go all the way in the direction of the south and stop in the historical places in Babel and proudly check in on my social media apps."

He said he would then visit the southern marshes in Ahwar, take a boat tour, "and have a great tea in the sky, and look at the stars which I miss since I was a child.

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“I would continue the trip to Basra and try all the seafood there for the first time in my life without being asked what my nationality is, which religion I have, which tribe I belong to, or even which party I voted for last time."

Said Abu Alaa, 66, said: “I wish for the good and happiness of all the Iraqi people. My wish is that I do not see anyone to be killed, wounded or living a poor life. I hope to see joy, not sorrow, and smiles, not tears.”

On the rag he posted on Tahrir's “Wishes Wall”, he wrote: “Oh Allah, make Iraq safe.”

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