Iraq’s recent history has been plagued by the nightmare of botched foreign interventions, state failures, and violent religious discord. The protests which are unfolding now are merely the latest chapter in a tale of a broken system which finds itself teetering, caught between the whims of Iranian and US regimes, and the bitterness of internal religious discord between Shia and Sunni Iraqis. It is hard to believe now, but Iraq used to be a haven of religious and ethnic diversity, with Christians, Jews, and various Muslim sects living side by side in the streets of cities such as Baghdad and Mosul.
The protests began in October, as Iraqis demonstrated against years of corruption, high unemployment, failing water and electricity services, and a rotten political system bequeathed by the US invasion in 2003. Many of those in the crowds were young Iraqis, mostly men but also women, who were simply seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families.
The diffuse and leaderless protests have been met with a brutal crackdown from the government – more than three hundred protestors have been killed since the 1st October. At least 15,000 more have been wounded, according to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq.