On February 27 2011, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave his parliament 100 days to “reform” their sometimes totally nonfunctional ministries or face consequences, in response “to people’s demands” as he put it. Those demands have taken the form of some of the least noted events of the Arab Spring: large mobilizations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, mass acts of civil disobedience and a general strike in Mosul, and the resignations of several governors all over Iraq, including two Basra governors. The Iraqi state has responded violently; with curfews, live ammunition, and wide scale arrests (signaled by Iraqis calling March 18th, “The Friday of Prisoners.”) That deadline ended June 7th, and many Iraqi civil society leaders are preparing for renewed protests this summer, calling June 10th, the “Friday of Resolution and Departure.” One such organizer is Baghdad-based Uday al-Zaidi, leader of an organization called “The Popular Movement to Save Iraq” and the brother of journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, who gained renown for throwing his shoes at then president George Bush.
The past three months have also seen a large shift in al-Maliki’s position on the presence of US troops in Iraq, from insisting on their scheduled withdrawal at the end of 2011, to allowing for the possibility of singing a new agreement extending their stay after “a national referendum.” Iraqis have been discussing at length what they see as this double crisis of legitimacy of the present Iraqi government: an utter lack of ability or interest in providing the most basic of services, and obedience to both a deeply unpopular military occupation as well as regional forces. Grassroots organizers meanwhile have seen this as an opening to make their protests really have an impact. In the following interview, Uday discusses his brothers, what he thinks has been driving these protests, who is participating, as well as the most prominent demands. The interview was conducted and translated by Ali Issa on May 25th, and was edited and produced by Joyce Wagner.
(For more on organizing in Iraq, see http://iraqleft.wordpress.com/