Revolution in times of COVID -19 – testimonies from Iraq
In March 2019, the Iraqi government had imposed a countrywide lockdown due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country. In April 2020, about 1500 cases suffering from COVID-19 were reported in the whole of Iraq. Due to limited testing the estimated number of unknown cases are probably much higher. Since the beginning of the pandemic the protesters in Tahrir Square took their own precautionary measures, as the manufacturing and wearing of facemasks, the disinfection of tents and the decision that only 20 % of the protesters are to remain in the square. Moreover, many political and social activists started initiatives to support people in need since the lockdown led to increasing unemployment, poverty and an economic recession due to dropping oil prices. Since the end of April, protesters launched the hashtag “we promise the revolution will return”, meaning that after the end of the lockdown protesters will return to the streets to demand their political, social and economic rights and the fall of the political system. We asked several political activists and protesters to describe to us diverse impacts of the corona-virus on the current situation in Iraq.
Nadia Mahmoud - Academic Researcher and feminist activist
Sami Adnan From “Workers against Sectarianism”
Doha Hassan - Videographer
The parts of Aleppo I visited in 2013 resembled that of a disheveled, upturned bowel, as did many other areas of the city which had become frontlines in the battle between the regime and anti-regime “liberation” forces. Bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, water and electricity networks, clothes and children’s toys, books, and strewn pieces of paper. You could see everything without even having to step foot inside the buildings. As you walked from one street to the next, you would feel as though you were invading the personal stories and daily lives of their residents, passing through their rooms and over their personal belongings scattered here and there between the rubble caused by explosions and the remnants of bombs. And all the while you would listen to the distant sounds of snipers' bullets which echoed through the streets from the other side of the city. The experience was the same throughout the country, just as it was for Syrians both inside Syria and in the diaspora. Raqqa, however, had a somewhat different story at the time. In 2013, a counter-revolution took place in the Syrian province of Raqqa after its liberation from the Syrian regime. Everything the city witnessed could be foretold from the graffiti on its walls depicting the battle between civilian rebel groups and armed militant groups, to the juxtaposition of the Independence flag and the black flag of Jihad, to the revolutionary slogans in contrast to the names of militant groups like “Jabhat al-Nusra” and “Ahrar al-Sham”. This is exactly what life was like in this liberated city. Ahmed, one of the demonstrators in Raqqa, told us that on the 4th March 2013, groups of heavily armed, masked men, stormed the city chanting, 'Our eternal leader is our master Muhammad,' and shouting the religious slogan “takbeer” in unison. He added, “At the time we were thrilled to see the moment in which members of the army and security forces were forced to flee the city, but this happiness vanished instantly once we began searching, in vain, for the Independence flag among the liberators, causing us to march towards the Dallah Roundabout chanting 'We are not Sunni, we are not Alawite, the Syrian people are united' We did not realize at the time that those who had risen to liberate our city would in fact end up being the ones to occupy it.”
Mohamad Blakah - Videographer
"It’s early December 2012, one year after I left my home and my city Damascus in Syria. More than a year had gone by while I had been waiting in exile. The once peaceful revolution had turned violent, being drawn into armed clashes by the regime. The number of casualties and detainees was rising, as violence took over. I was watching everything from outside of my country’s borders – a cursed country- helplessly. I decided to go to northern Syria, to the region around Idlib and Aleppo, where the Free Syrian Army had expelled all regime forces and had taken control. I was hoping to once again find my role in this revolution, just like before it had turned violent. But unlike the beginning of the revolution, we weren’t united, our demands and slogans not in unison as before, and I found myself unable to carry on for long. The peace that we were seeking had long been buried under rubble next to the bodies of our martyrs. Our dignity, that we were so proud of was quickly replaced by the humiliation of hunger and siege. I filmed many rebels during that time in northern Syria to document what was happening around us. Or maybe I filmed them just to remember - because nothing of what was happening around us happened without being clear to everyone. And because most of them were killed and became martyrs themselves."