Ostensibly, the universities are demanding that students go back to class, but Ruhaief Al-Essawi, a professor at Al Iraqia University, said that many sympathize with the students’ demands. “I know that none of the administrations will take any action against them,” Al-Essawi said. “It’s important for the students to show their support to the protesters, because there is no other way. In all the world, the ones who make change are the young.”
People of all ages, classes and sects have found a rare unity in these protests, which are calling for the overthrow of a political class that’s seen as corrupt and subservient to foreign powers.
In the streets around Tahrir Square, “Iran out, out” is a familiar rallying cry. Many blame Iran for propping up the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and its failure to address poor public services and high unemployment, which are the primary grievances in these protests.
The demonstrations are the largest Iraq has seen since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 following the U.S.-led invasion. Sixteen years later, there has been little to no progress and protesters are determined not to back down. Young Iraqis are articulating a different vision for their country and, for the first time, they have a voice.
“There is nothing in the past like this revolution with this feeling of unity between us,” said Amna Anwer, 22. “I know my city better now, I know my people better now. I didn’t think something huge like this would come from us Iraqis, and now I’m really proud I’m Iraqi.”
A Matter of Dignity
Ahmed comes from a wealthy family and, as a medical student, he will be assured a job when he graduates, but he said his participation in the protests is a matter of dignity. “I want a better life, I want my passport to be more powerful, I want more services, more good strategies to control the country. I want the technocrats—people who are efficient at their roles—to take control of the country.”