Black Gold: a curse afflicting the poor, and a blessing for the corrupt

According to official figures, Basra, the third largest city in Iraq, located in the far south, is inhabited by approximately 2.7 million people. In reality, the number is much higher, but we must bear in mind the inadequacy of field survey procedures, the lack of an electronic governance system, in addition to the migration of citizens from the central and southern regions of Iraq towards Basra city. All these factors must have increased the population growth, but were not included in the Basra census. Among the factors promoting migration to Basra is the search for job opportunities in the private sector, the construction sector, or the oil industry, as there are a large number of oil and non-oil companies, both foreign and local, in various fields and businesses there. Despite the presence of these oil companies in Basra city, unemployment rates remain unchanged in the country as a whole. Iraqis continue to struggle to find job opportunities in both the...

The echo of Rojhelat’s “Jin Jiyan Azadi” slogan reaches Iraqi Kurdistan

While East Kurdistan’s and Iran’s protests are gaining worldwide attention and international support, little support has emerged from the Iraqi Kurdish community. In the Iraqi Kurdish region (KRG) intra-Kurdish rivalry between the Kurdistan Union Party (PUK) and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) as well as these parties’ political dependencies to neighboring States has limited the expressions of support to this struggle by the public of the Kurdistan Region. Jina Amini, also known by her Persian-imposed name Mahsa Amini (as Iran, in a typical colonial manner, refuses to recognize Kurdish names), was a 22-year-old Kurdish woman from Saqqaz, aspiring to become a lawyer. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran's regime ended her dream on 16 September 2022 as she was severely beaten while in the custody of morality police for not wearing the compulsory hijab correctly. Despite the regime’s attempts to hide the cause of death from the public, the story eventually broke out, thanks to journalist Niloofar Hamedi, who was later arrested for breaking the news. Details of the abuse Jina suffered spread across Iran and beyond, initiating riots in all Kurdish cities in Iran. Later almost all provinces of the country followed suit, from Rojhelat (Kurdistan) to Baluchistan, from Iran’s Azerbaijan province to Khuzestan, not to mention the Persian provinces of Iran, including its capital. All demanded the end of theistic dictatorship, patriarchy, and compulsory hijab.  Simultaneously, Kurds in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq started organizing protests in support of the people of Iran and, specifically, the Kurdish provinces in...

Garmian’s Oil sector

Garmian is a subdistrict of the Sulaymaniyah province, which, by definition, falls under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, led by the Talabani family since its creation in 1975). This sub district is one of the few areas of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to contain oil fields. Like all sub-districts of Sulaymaniyeh, Garmian is under the influence of local PUK chieftains, namely Mahmood Sangawi, Adnan Hamaimina and Ali Shahid Muamad. These leaders have long played a decisive role in the attribution of oil concessions while also secretly setting up their own companies to benefit from the oil production in Garmian. Garmian, a border area between the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and the federal areas known as the disputed territories as defined by the Iraqi constitution, is an unstable area where tensions remain between kurdish (peshmerga) forces, Iraqi federal army and Shia militias. Adding to this, the poor coordination between these military factions significantly...

Iranian Bombings in Iraqi Kurdistan: Rising Violence and the Beginning of a Serious Conflict

Two months after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish student, was beaten to death by the authorities for not having worn her veil correctly, the revolution continues in Iran. So does the repression of the Mullah’s regime which, according to an Iran Human Rights (IHR) report from 16 November, has killed 342 people, and sentenced 5 protesters to death.  In Iraqi Kurdistan, Iranian drones and ballistic missiles targeted the two major revolutionary Iranian-Kurdish parties in exile, the Komala and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), on 28 September and 14 November. The escalation between Iran and its Kurdish minority threatens to open up a new forefront and further unsettle the region. These tensions are nothing new, and the relations between Teheran and the Kurds have never been quiet. A centuries-old fight divides them; on the one hand, Iran refuses to grant any rights to its Kurdish citizens, and on the other, Kurdish separatists continue their fight to achieve autonomy, like their Iraqi-Kurdish neighbors, with whom they have found refuge. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, more than 30,000 Kurds have been killed in battle. And in exile, behind the natural border of the Zagros Mountains, the Iranian-Kurdish militia parties hope to escape the fire of the Iranian army by placing themselves under the joint sovereign protection of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraq.  Iran threatens Iranian-Kurdish groups exiled in Iraqi Kurdistan Two recent events demonstrate that Iranian Kurds remain within reach of large-scale strikes. The events of 14 November confirmed that Iran,...

Mental Health

Tribal Violence in Iraq: a psychological perspective

News of violence in Iraq has become routine, and it is now rare to witness a day without a case of violence. Political violence is what draws most attention, not due to its scarcity, but for other factors related to the division of society into factions and groups. Tribal and clan violence is fueled by weapons ranging from medium to heavy arms usually used in conflicts between clans and tribes without the state having a significant role in containing them. This cycle of successive violent retaliation does not have any boundaries. It can begin with a petty squabble such as a disagreement about the distribution of resources, a dispute over a plot of ​​land or even, and this is...

Bullying in Iraq: the law of the jungle leaves no one untouched

“Just as some of those sentenced to death die of terror hours before their execution, my brother Ammar Ali died after being isolated from the outside world due to bullying. His congenital birth defect in his brain had also exacerbated his torment.” With these words, Tahseen Ali summarized his brother’s story. Tahseen recounts the painful story of his brother, Ammar, who died at the age of 24 due to bullying. He said, “My brother suffered from a congenital defect to his head and hair, especially his hair which did not grow normally and remained light in color. This is what prompted some in his surrounding to bully him. Even some passers-by would call him strange, very offensive and cruel things.”  With grief and pain, Tahseen asserts that his brother tried every way to overcome bullying without success: “At one point, he started drinking alcohol in an attempt to draw people's attention to him with something other than his appearance, that is,...

Iraq, a psychiatric void

In Iraq, depression and psychiatric illness are disregarded although they affect large sections of the population. They are even associated with shame and weakness. The rare medical structures present in the country do not offer suitable treatments to the men and women traumatized by the violence in society.  Near Sadr City, barbed wires can be seen for hundreds of meters. Armed men are positioned at the main entrance of the Al-Rashid psychiatric hospital. Their night shift over in the morning, they let other security officers replace them. Inside, birds are chirping and bathing in little swamps. Rusty car structures are scattered in the courtyard. In the distance, a few fenced buildings appear loosely in the distance behind creeping vegetation. Two...

Politics of anger in Iraqi Kurdistan

In Iraq, Kurdistan and in the wider Middle East, anger is in the air. This can be perceived through several events occurring in the region, either minor or important: demonstrations, instability, trends of immigration, heated social media discourses and low voting turnouts. The author of this piece chose to focus mainly on Kurdistan rather than Iraq. The two areas are bound together and share many features but are also different in many other ways. Iraqi Kurdistan’s specificity in relation to the issue of anger and politics will thus be emphasized in this article. Modernization and its discontents There is no doubt that one of the most notable characteristics of Kurdistan’s politics is the regular and high level of anger it carries. While anger, protest and demonstrations are global issues, each society expresses and manages anger in a particular way. Its roots often sprout from various sociological factors. As Indian essayist Pankaj Mishra puts it, “the unwelcomed side effects of modernization, and...

Being LGBT in Iraq: a mental health nightmare

“I feel that my body no longer belongs to me” Zainab is a 22 years old lesbian women from Baghdad. Her family forced her to marry a man. She was repeatedly raped by him. When she tried to return to her family's home she was subjected to physical violence after which her relatives forcibly returned her to her husband. She now suffers from mental problems that affect her health. This situation led her to attempt suicide several times. Meanwhile, she can't reach a therapist. "I feel that my body no longer belongs to me,” explained the young woman. The series of wars, low economic levels, insecurity, omnipresence of lawles armed groups, has multiplied crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in Iraq. This led to an increase of mental disorders cases, depression, and even suicide among the members of the LGBT community who remain unable to escape the miserable reality they live in. Meanwhile, mental health services remain close to nonexistent, and are considered a luxury by many. Although homosexuality was removed from the list of diseases of the American Psychiatric Association in 1987, and the World Health Organization (WHO) retracted...

Politics

The Tishreen movement and its political challenges

An entire year has passed since the last parliamentary elections and Iraq still hasn’t formed a government while the parliament remains more divided than ever. Meanwhile, the Tishreen movement, which shook the very foundations of the Iraqi State in 2019, has almost completely stalled, moving from a stage of protest actions to becoming an genuine political organization from withing the walls of the parliament, riksing its own credibility in the process. finding alternatives Since the start of the protests, young Iraqis have become familiarized with alternative political systems such as those encompassed in the Tishreen movement. These kind of actors reflecting or attempting to reflect civil society were previously inaccessible to the older generations during long years of tyranny and oppression....

The Men Around Al-Sadr

The story of a hitman who (almost) always escapes justice by: Ali Faez When the political regime of Iraq fell on April 9, 2003, the dissolution of the former Iraqi military heralded the emergence of armed groups outside the scope of the state, groups which would form a parallel state thriving on economic rent, dominance over border crossings and various state institutions budgets. Among these organizations was the Mahdi Army, founded by Muqtada al-Sadr in late 2003 to fight occupying US forces and target Iraqi security forces as well as those collaborating with the US such as translators or any other work that could cast them as foreign agents. After 2006, when sectarian conflict erupted in the aftermath of the bombing of the Shrine of the Two Imams (Ali al-Hadi and Hassan al-Askari), the Mahdi Army engaged in sectarian and ethnic cleansing. This policy led to the killing of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and the bombing and razing of mosques...

Al-Sadr’s intense month and The Kurdish Street

Since 1991 the Kurdish street has been disconnected from the Arab one in Iraq, following social and political dynamics specific to the Kurdistan Region (KRG). With the al-Sadr uprisings, we once again saw the residents of the KRG play a more or less passive role towards the deadlock conflict and a near civil-war situation. After the gulf war, the Kurdish areas in Northern Iraq, also known as Bashuri Kurdistan , have been enjoying significant independence from the central government in Iraq. Its capital Erbil hosts its parliament, ministerial and presidential buildings, which process the people's securitarian, legal, social, and residential needs. This has made the individual citizens of the Kurdistan Region not require visiting or recognizing the capital of Iraq, the State are still technically part of. Currently, Iraq itself is facing one of its worst deadlocks in decades as the...

Iraqi minorities face upheaval amid renewed Iraqi crisis

Religious communities in Iraq have been severely weakened by the escalating tension between major political forces, which have dominated the country and undermined the rights of these minorities both at parliamentary and social levels. The crisis-ridden situation is pushing them to a state of total despair. The feeling that a perilous future awaits them is widespread, making it impossible for them to foresee any political and social existence in a country which is originally and rightfully theirs. Active political forces, especially Kurdish and Shiite, were able to extend their control over the weaker political actors of minorities and monopolize their representation, stripping the independent minorities’ leaders of any effective role. Stolen Political Representation This is the case for the Christian community, which enjoys...

Al-Maliki and Al-Sadr Are Taking Iraq to the Brink of the Abyss: What Is Iran’s Role?

As the tension does not seem to wane in Iraq as the Sadrist militant fall back once again from the Green zone. As Iraq’s top militia-backed political rivals count their gains and losses, the streets of Iraqi cities are once again filled with blood, destruction and chaos, while governmental institutions threaten to collapse after yet another round of disputes where the rule of law is flouted with no consequences for those who ignited the fire. Still, a close look at the rivalry will help us understand where the ongoing tension emanates from. In Iraq, the dispute between Muqtada al-Sadr and Nouri al-Maliki has manifested in minute detail and images, revealing the depth of the 15-year conflict between the two Shia...

Environment

Hunting and poaching in Iraqi Kurdistan: a plague for the wildlife

Contrary to a widely held area, Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan does not hold a large population of wild animals. This is partly because most species in the region are heavily exposed to hunting and therefore threatened with disappearance. Environmental organizations as well as citizens concerned about the preservation of nature have jointly launched actions to protect animals and to favor their reproduction. The regional government has also adopted several rules and regulations in order to monitor hunting and to protect animal populations. But all research to evaluate the number and varieties of animals within the Kurdish region remain widely approximative. Censuses indicate the presence of partridges, hens, gazelles, wild goats, jacals, wolves, bears, boars and even panthers. Among...

Kurdistan :  from lush forests to dry desert

To this day, no country on earth has ever prevented aggressions toward nature. Humans are responsible for countless damages perpetrated against the wilderness. Considered as the “lungs of the earth”, green spaces keep shrinking, mostly due to manmade fires. Here, in Iraqi Kurdistan, this reality is all the most tragic. In this small region of the world, forests and vegetation in general seems bound to destruction. Our natural environment is being destroyed from the skies and from the ground: nature is dying. Welcome in the country where forests burn The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is part of the Iraqi state, located north of the country. East of it stands the Islamic Republic of Iran’s borders. To the North stands Turkey. Its...

Scarcity and over-salinity: Basra’s water dilemma

Due to corruption and negligence of Basra's local authority, the city of water and oil, referred to as the jewel of Iraq's south or the Venice of Middle East, was declared a devastated city in the summer of 2018 due to the contamination of its fresh water supplies and the disruption of all water purification plants in the region. As a result of the usage of polluted waters by the infrastructures of the city, tens of thousands of inhabitants suffered from poisoning in Basra that season. The state authority promised to conduct thorough investigations to find out the causes of the disaster. After three years, however, the investigation's findings were never announced, and the promises made to contain the...

Dirty business: Baghdad’s wasteland affects thousands’ health

While the Iraqi mafia steadily invested in the trash business in, patients and children in particular keep flooding hospitals. Waste trafficking generates a lot of money in Iraq through a shady partnership between governmental agencies and unscrupulous private operators. Meanwhile, regulation organizations remain silent. In Al-Rasheed camp, the population is surviving by making a living by collecting waste out of trash piles that the municipality buys back for 10 000 Iraqi dinars (less than seven US dollars) per day. In Iraq, underage workers is not unheard of. It is even commonplace. What is new in this matter is the exploitation of children in a truly dirty business. For a salary even more miserable than their adult counterparts, they roam Iraq’s...

Are the Iraqi marshes reaching a dead end?

Every year, Iraq’s vast wetlands in the south of the country see their water levels and quality naturally fluctuate. During the winter, the marshes did not have the same aspect as today, as a dry and hot summer had hit Mesopotamia. One after another, unprecedented droughts are heating the region, emptying the rivers and forcing the water buffalo, an animal at the heart of the economic life in the marshes, to flee to areas where the water levels are higher. While a continuous rise in temperatures and rarefaction of water resources due to the spiral of climate change is affecting the whole planet, wetlands such as the Iraqi marshes, as of today, are facing existential challenges.  These last months, earlier-than-usual drought prompted a number of water buffalo breeders to migrate toward areas in the heart of the central marshes of Chabayish district (Dhi Qar province, 400 km South East of Baghdad) for fresh water. The Ahwar, the local name of Iraq’s marshes is witnessing an ecological crisis as remarkable droughts threaten its perennity and biodiversity.  The dangers of drought are not...

Elections

The Tishreen movement, from protest to Parliament

Serving the future October 2019’s protests generated unprecedented mass protests in eight governorates of central and southern Iraq. Tainted with blood and tears, these popular marshes subsequently structured themselves into organized protests while the government remained blind to their demands of reforms. In light of an unprecedented governmental repression, the Tishreen movement started to get more attention and was emboldened to propose political solutions in relation to the popular demands made during the protests. During the following demonstrations, Tishreen’s popular base was able to mobilize itself and to fulfill its self-organization initiative with the aim of overcoming Iraq's classical political structure. This was made possible by applying a revolutionary slogan: "Al Wa’i Qa’id” in other words: the people’s conscience  is...

Three month after the Iraqi elections, the disappointed hopes of minorities

On October 10, 2021, during anticipated legislative elections, Iraqis gathered to elect the 329 new deputies of the Majlis al Nuwab, the national parliament. These elections were organized by the Iraqi government in order to calm the anger of the Iraqi street that emerged during massive demonstrations in October 2019, which lasted for several months, and forced Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to resign from his position. Among...

Women

Women in Iraqi Kurdistan: an asphyxiating situation

While Iraqi-kurdish women and men shared the burden of struggling for existence against Sadam’s regime to secure autonomy in the early nineties, patriarchal values have not ceased to dominate society as women remain treated like property rather than partners. In the last days of 2018, a woman and her three children were set on fire inside the family house in Chamchamal, Sulaymaniyah governorate. On December 12, 2018, Sewan Qadir, 23 years old; Darun, one year old; Larin, two years old and Darin five years old were all burned alive inside their house. The three children died immediately in a hellish fire and smoke. With burn injuries on her body, Sewan, the children’s mother  was transferred to the emergency hospital in Sulaimani. The...

Every woman’s nightmare: honour killing in South Iraq

Basra, in Southern Iraq: a city and province rich with black gold but dominated by militiamen. The province’s capital sometimes erupts into tribal conflicts while remaining under the yoke of religious parties loyal to Iran since the US invasion in 2003.Basra hosts Iraq's only access to the sea, on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab river, which flows in the Persian-Arabian Gulf. This highly strategic hub has become a transit point for smuggling and importing of various goods. Despite all the wealth transiting through the province, its population is still living in poverty while unemployment, armed groups, and corruption are rampant. These factors lead to insecurity while women remain the main victims of such social issues. Just during the month of January 2021, the authorities found the bodies of 6 women, one of whom was stabbed in parts of her body, and the others were shot. Often, the victim’s families cannot hide their bodies for long, so they bury them or throw them in landfills. Despite family secrets, tales and secrets of many women were told on social media after their killing....

Ahwar women: big challenges and endless dreams

Between the reeds, Umm Kazem, 64, spends most of her time in the Iraqi marshes, known as the Ahwar wetlands, in order to deliver milk to her customers. Every day, this resident of the Chibayish district (70 km southeast of Al Nasiriyeh, Dhi Qar province’s capital) makes her way deep inside the wetlands on her mashhoof, a traditional marshes boat, and comes back loaded with buffalo milk to sell before returning home. Umm Kazem has been selling milk for more than 12 years. Milk is the basis of the marshes’ economy. For Umm Kazim, it is the only source of livelihood. She makes milk from her buffaloes and then travels long distances in southern Iraq.  The quality of her products has...

Yazidi women face structural challenges after ISIS

Sinjar is a district of the Nineveh province located West of Mosul, in the Iraqi desert near the Syrian border. It is the most prominent stronghold of the Yazidis, who are surrounded by Arab tribes. On the Sinjar Mountain, there are small villages whose inhabitants are mostly Yazidis. Back in 2014, it has been the theatre of a terrible genocide orchestrated by ISIS militants, the latest in the history of Yazidis. “Because the tragedy is black, the grief is black, and so is the death... And because the massacre was carried out in black clothes as well, that episode had to be documented in a black color...” Thus spoke Khadr Al-Domali, a journalist and civil activist, in his book (The Black Death) where he documented the stories of dozens of Yazidis survivors from the Sinjar Incursion in 2014. Al-Domali is not the only one who wrote about this tragedy that still haunts its survivors. Dozens of other chroniclers have documented this genocide, among them Doctor Nagham Nawzat Hasan, who told more than 200 stories about Yazidi women who were kidnapped from...

Smuggling

Drugs in Iraq: a disease crippling society

The Iraqi border authorities and security forces are incapable of taking suitable measures to tackle drug smuggling and manufacturing. Due to the unstable situation in Iraq, the country has become a major passage for the smuggling of narcotic substances through Iraq to neighboring countries. This troubling issue has a long history predating Iraq’s invasion in 2003. At that time, an international coalition led by the United States of America invaded Iraq with the official objective of toppling the Baathist regime led by Saddam Hussein. In the end, the security vacuum caused by the american occupation significantly increased the drug...

The plight of smuggling threatens Iraq’s heritage

Dhi Qar province is one of the most important governorates in terms of archaeological sites in Iraq. Their great historical, scientific and archaeological importance was recognized by excavation experts who visited the province throughout the last two centuries. They discovered dozens of monuments that increased our understanding of the antique Mesopotamia. In Dhi Qar Governorate, there are more than 1200 archaeological sites that stretching through different periods of history. These sites are spread over vast surfaces in a number of areas all around the province, some of which are close to cities and others are still mere hills in the countryside. The latter areas are mostly unprotected, and over time, have become vulnerable to theft. The archaeological sites far from the...

Organ trafficking in Iraq: dealers in Baghdad and smugglers in Kurdistan

Decades of war in Iraq resulted in an almost collapse of state institutions. Competition for power, coupled with weak government performances, rampant corruption and growing unemployment led to serious dysfunctionalities within Iraqi institutions and security forces. This situation facilitated the expansion of international organized crime, including the trafficking of human organs, a phenomenon more and more apparent throughout the years. Ali Al-Husseini, a father of 5, was walking in Al-Maghrib Street, Baghdad, concerned about the fate of his daughter who suffers from kidney failure. He had just left the Al-Khayal Hospital that specializes in kidney problems. His daughter needed a donor to heal and overcome constant torments and pain stemming from her daily dialysis. Three people approached him, apparently aware of his daughter’s story, and claimed they could secure a suitable kidney donor for her. Mr. Al-Husseini told the Red Line that he was happy with the news and did not bother to inquire about the credentials or identity of these strangers. He immediately agreed and the transplant operation was carried out for his daughter in a hospital in Erbil in...

Covid-19

Thi Qar is crushed between the Coronavirus and corruption

As the coronavirus pandemic entered its second year, Iraq struggles to cope with an unending health crisis. While the peak of the epidemic is behind, a glimpse into the way it was managed in Thi Qar province will help shed some light on the high level of dysfunctionality within Iraq’s health services. Ali Abdul Zahra had a hard time hiding his pain and sadness as he recalled the tragic events he went through during the Coronavirus pandemic last July. While being severely ill, this 27 year old activist was also struggling to save his family which had entered the main isolation center at Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital, one of the largest health facilities in al Nasiriyah, the governorate’s capital. The young man did not rest as most would, despite being infected with the virus himself. Rather, he kept moving between the patient lobbies and the halls of the hospital, looking for oxygen bottles. Tragically, Ali had transmitted the virus to his family....

COVID is impacting the fight against other diseases in Basra

Because of the numerous surgeries he underwent; Dhiaa Abdullah still has a hard time speaking. The young boy travelled to India where he received treatment after a malignant tumor in his head was discovered by Iraqi oncologists. The doctors recommended that Dhia’s surgery be performed abroad, as they lack capacity to ensure the adequate treatment here. Diaa was permanently disfigured due to his chemotherapy treatment. "For seven years, Dhiaa has been fighting cancer and struggling in pain while face equipment and medicine shortages." Dhiaa’s father explained. "But the Corona pandemic made matters even worse as it paralyzed the country...