Why is the main route between Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, the Kurdistan Region’s two largest and most important cities, a bumpy, dangerous, two-lane road? The lack of an efficient link between the two cities is a perfect example of the Kurdistan Region’s internal divisions, reflecting its dysfunctional politics in physical form.
Iraq’s alcohol ban is out of step with the direction the Middle East is taking and also runs against the growing secularization of Iraqi society, particularly among its very large youth population.
Iraq’s climate conditions are only expected to worsen. In addition, activists, who face daily threats, have limited places to organize. The rituals of Ashura are critical not only in drawing attention to these dire conditions, but also in reaching those Iraqis who will be most affected by environmental degradation.
The celebration hall was vast, with the birthday star placed majestically in its middle. I don’t mean Saddam or even any of his children or grandchildren. The character we all eagerly anticipated was Saddam’s birthday cake.
Iraq’s marshes in the south are drying out, eroding ecosystems and livelihoods while the government has little to offer. Meanwhile, as climate change and neighboring states have contributed to Iraq’s water woes, environmentalists have been subjected to kidnapping for speaking out.
The lesson of Iraq is not to retreat into fatalism and make a virtue of apathy. It is to start from a place of empathy and weigh the human cost of both action and inaction. It is to never initiate a war where there is none, but, should someone else start a war, to ensure that it ends in the aggressor’s defeat.
The sectarian human rights abuses and actions to undermine the democratic structures being put in place were known to us, yet we proved powerless to act. On this 20th anniversary, many are looking for lessons in America’s actions. But what remains inexplicable is that many knew at the time what the issues were.