A Different Voice from Iraq
An interview of International newspaper* with Issam Shukri, Secretary of the Left Worker-communist Party of Iraq – LWPI
International: Issam there are reports of ongoing mass protests in Iraq, but these protests don’t get appropriate coverage by mass media. Would you explain briefly for International readers what that is going on in Iraq regarding people’s demands and protests? And what is the reaction of government forces?
:Society in Iraq has been affected by the revolutions that broke out in the region. But Iraq has suffered in a different way and had reached unprecedented levels of bloodshed and terror, of course, by the Islamic militias but mainly by the U.S occupation and its destruction of almost everything including infrastructure; electric power, clean water, roads, increasing cost of living and wide spread of poverty and destroying civility. But the ruling Islamic-nationalist-tribal militias are key partners to the occupation because they were brought by it. That is exactly what the people of Iraq are saying now. There is no difference between those Islamists and the US. They are one and the same. This is part, in my opinion, of the serious changes that have taken shape in the political and social scene in Iraq. This could be a fruit of the revolutions but also it has a strong internal element from within the situation of Iraq.
The masses began the struggle against the Islamic government. It has started out by raising life demands such fight poverty, unemployment and provision of basic services. These demands and protests started first in the southern cities, particularly Basra, Nasiriyah, Karbala and other cities. We know that those cities and governorates are controlled by Islamic pro-IRI parties. The class contradiction in Iraq has reached a degree the people can no longer tolerate. People decided that they cannot be silent anymore. The main political ruling blocks in Iraq are now divided between Islamic Shiite groups and the pan-Arab nationalist movement allied with Sunni terrorist groups. Iraq is now crowded with Islamic, tribal, nationalist, ethnic gangs of every color and shade. The good news though, is that people is revolting against them!.
The people of Iraq are revolting almost everywhere; in Sulaimaniyah, Baghdad, Falluja and Ramadi, Basra, Nasriyah, Karbala, and Najaf. It’s everywhere. The biggest demonstration happened in Tahrir square in Baghdad on 25 February this year. This demonstration and the ones followed made it so clear to the ruling militias that people do not want them. They don’t like their religion, their sectarianism, their nationalism, their tribalism, and their barbarity. People are fed-up and want change. This is a new situation in Iraq. We have been pushing for this, saying that the domination of the reactionary conflict between the 2 poles of terror must be broken. I believe that the revolution in Iraq has made it clear that people do not want both ends. Previously this was not possible: you’re either considered with the Sadrist , ex-bathists/Sunni mujahideen groups, or you are a U.S. agent . Today, people are taking another path.
Demonstrations continue today, but it's not as strong as last few months and there are various reasons, especially the brutality and repression by which the government militias and gangs faced the protestors. They attacked the people with batons and knives and sticks. They beaten up protestors, and took them away in ambulances. This had happened after the expiry of 100 days set by Maliki government to so-called improve the performance of the government and end corruption and stealing. The ruling Islamic-tribal militias have used brutally not less than that used by Basij and Revolutionary Guards in Iran, or by the Ba’thist troops in Syria or Kaddafi troops in Libya. Those forces are no longer able to do anything else to maintain their grip on power except by violence and oppression.
:How this is possible in security circumstances in Iraq to continue mass demonstrations when there is possibly risk of terrorist and military attacks?
:Demonstrations have, in fact, changed the situation. The demonstrations are part of the anti-terrorist movement, anti-Islamic. This is part of its identity as people’s independent movement. This is the point of power in this movement. The people who went out to the street have created a catalyst to other citizens for more demonstrations. This has hampered the Islamic terrorist calls and a decline of their general influence and position. This revolutionary movement in Iraq is, in my opinion, not a “add on” to the situation. This movement is THE situation now. But one might ask about terrorism and how it has never stopped in Iraq. That is very true. But, it is worth mentioning that it has been pushed back. The demonstrations were safe because people who went out where against Islamic terrorism by default. The people are facing more “Classic” form of state terrorism which is how they want to break the demonstration with violence. Other forms of terrorism are still there but happen more sporadically. I believe that if people join the revolutionary movement more and more, there will be much less terrorism by the Islamic or ex-Ba’thist groups. Their recruits are dwindling. The interesting thing is that that sense of fear among the masses has vanished. People do not care about terrorism any more than they do if they want to go for shopping or to visit friends. Some people say we are ready to die here (Tahrir Square) just like Bou Azizi, the Tunisian young man who burned himself in protest against the government for preventing him from selling vegetables in his cart. Those say we are no less heroic than him.
There is the phenomenon of aiming at key officers in the army and police recruits using different methods of killing. Hundreds have been kidnapped that way recently by their opponents. Some say they are done by Islamic Republic elements to disturb the situation against the US. Some say they are both government militias settling accounts. But mass terrorism or sectarian tensions have eased considerably now.
:What can you say about leadership and organising forces of the protests? Is there any organisations or leaders that playing a determing role in the protests?
:The demonstrations are being lead by local leaderships, i.e. among people themselves. There are also youth, women, syndicated, and civil organizations and individuals. Mass organizations are formed in the light of the current situation quickly, mostly galvanized around the goals of anti-government and on the overwhelming desire to end the disaster in Iraq and stop them from destroying more. There is the Unity Against Unemployment in Iraq UAU that we helped found in Baghdad last January, and include young faces that had participated also in the unemployment movement in Baghdad immediately after the fall of the former regime in 2003. In my opinion, the current mass movement has no unified one leadership but many smaller groups that could organize. There are efforts made to coordinate different organizations and leaders are still to be consolidated on the ground. In fact, when I am answering this question all my reference is Baghdad’s Tahrir Square demonstrations, but in my opinion, the movement is much broader than that and includes many parts of Iraq mainly the southern provinces. I can say that there is a new spirit to the events in Iraq, where the young people are controlling the scene and their demands are truly revolutionary, but the question of leadership is not yet clear. Perhaps the next events will unfold more realistic and true answers.
:What is Left-WPI doing and plans to do in these events?
:This question is important. Our Party participate in all events and our comrades have some influence and leadership roles within the protest demonstrations in Baghdad.
Those comrades participate within the activities of the Unity Against Unemployment in Iraq. The UAU has leaded a demonstration which started from Mutanabi Street in Baghdad, and walked a long Rashid Street all the way to Tahrir Square. Our comrades were the leaders of the demonstration and raised our humanist and civilized and revolutionary slogans that had no trace of religion, sectarianism or ethnicity. Also, our comrades are taking part in the demonstrations of Tahrir Square, raising slogans, and distributing flyers and newsletters. For the UAU, it now publishes a weekly newsletter called "No to Unemployment," in Arabic لا للبطالة which they distribute among demonstrators and citizens. The publication is about unemployment and tries to unify the ranks of the unemployed, which are over 50% of Iraqi working class. The strategy we are pursuing at the moment is to try to unify the leadership of the demonstrations and keep it away from the influence of Islamic or nationalist trends, and to maintain its independence from the reactionary forces of the ruling classes. This is a major task that the circumstances force us to confront. This kind of job requires conscious leadership. Our comrades are young but principled. We need to pay more attention to that and cultivate their ability to see, analyze, lead, and interfere accordingly. The party leadership needs to be with them to follow up the developments day by day and make sure that worker communism is present and not fail the test. This requires a lot of follow-up and to answer any arising questions in some cases faster than your ability. The general line of our movement is in harmony with the revolutionary movement and the attempt to influence it positively, I mean to promote the concepts of secularism, equal citizenship, defence of women’s rights and complete equality of women, and to push back the discriminatory ideas and elements that promote nationalism and tribal inhumane values. Religious ideas are not popular among demonstrators, but nationalists could show their decayed tendencies every now and then, especially recently against the Islamic Republic attacks on the people of Iraq. Our party has issued a declaration in this regard which condemned these attacks, whether the bombing of Kurdistan, or cut the water flow in rivers inside of Iraq like Karun and Diyala, or in contaminating the waters of Shatt al-Arab or drying the marshes of Hwaiza etc.
Politically we have presented a platform in which we delineate our position regarding political power in Iraq. We consider this document as our political concrete solution to the question of political power in Iraq. The crisis of the ruling class in Iraq has opened this question wide, so we decided that it is our role to give an answer. Our solution is based on a basic concept of letting the people, truly and factually decide their own future through forming councils.
Finally, the people of Iraq have had a great deal of suffering and the revolutionary situation now in Iraq requires our presence. We are gaining respect and trust among the people despite the hard conditions and lack of resources that we suffer. We ask for help and support in all forms. We are the force of worker communism in Iraq. We need the support of all decent and humanist forces in the world and Iran as well so that we can raise our banner of socialism and humanism and freedom in Iraq.
*The complete interview in Farsi is published at: