From Baghdad's Own Tahrir Square to Mosul: The Friday of the Free
Lieven De Cauter presents a letter from his colleague in Iraq, Asma Al Haidari:
April 15th. What am I to write to you about today? It is the Friday of the Free! For this is what our young revolutionaries have called it. I will start with the demonstrations on Tahrir Square in Baghdad. Of course all the bridges and streets leading to Tahrir were cut off but people came all the same and are still there. They are chanting that Maliki is a liar and a thief. They are chanting that whoever does not say Tahrir, “Liberation”, his life is a loss. They are daring the security forces who are there in great numbers to detain them. I have always known and told you what we are made of, how could the Americans have ever thought that they can colonize us? You can feel the atmosphere of Tahrir. You can see and feel the life that is Tahrir. Tahrir belongs to the People.
A man of 50 who cries, says: ‘Death to Iran! Death to America! Death to Maliki! 80% of Parliament and the people who rule are Iranians, there is no loyalty to Iraq. Long Live Iraq! All our sons are in detention centers, my 16 year old son is in prison. Iraq is the crown on our heads. We will all die for Iraq. Iraq will live forever!’ Then there is a young man who shouts: ‘Down with sectarianism! Down with the Quota System! Death to Iran! Let all Iraqi Young Men rebel and fight for Iraq! If Mohammed is a Sunni then I am a Shia, but we are all one. We are all brothers. We all have the same blood!’ Women cry and men, grown up men shed tears of agony and anguish for Iraq and for our sons and daughters, for our country that has been raped and pillaged.
Ah, the scenes in Tahrir were phenomenal, because Maliki and his henchmen yesterday ordered people to demonstrate in two football grounds, again on a sectarian basis, can you imagine? But he is a stupid man and so are his advisors. The Iraqis are much too intelligent and clever for all of this and proved that they are now at the point of no return in their rebellion and revolt. They assembled in Tahrir and told Maliki and his parliamentarians to go and play football in the stadiums he has assigned.
The young man who said let's all unite and fight also said that he was sure a massacre was going to be committed by the security forces against the demonstrators today. But these same security forces could not stop them from coming to Tahrir. Men, women, and children, Muslims and Christians who are speaking out about the “government's” criminality against them – it was amazing and enthralling. The crushed Iraqi middle class in all its colours and hues is out and will remain out. This is the beginning of civil disobedience, all very peaceful but full of force. The women who are in Tahrir are in the hundreds, all women whose sons or husbands have disappeared in the secret prisons of Maliki and the Occupation. But Iraqis have broken the chains. The world should watch this. But the world is silent and apparently deaf and blind. Where is the free western press? Reading the New York Times one would believe that their correspondents are living on another planet. All the mainstream press is silent, in fact.
Today, there were also large demonstrations in Basra, all over Anbar province and in Babil as well. In Diwaniya they were threatened by the security forces that they would all be detained. Of course, in Sulaymaniya the crowds are in the tens of thousands on Azadi Square. The scene is developing and the protest is building up. Then there is Mosul, where for the past 6 days a huge demonstration and gathering has been gradually grown in numbers and today there are 5,000 people in The Square of the Free, the old prison square. All the tribal sheikhs who had not sold themselves to the occupation came from the very south of Iraq, from Nassiriya and Basra. There were tribal sheikhs and leaders from Kut, Diyala, a contingent of Kurdish demonstrators from Sulaymaniya. They came from Haweeja and Tikrit. The Christians in the north as well as tribal leaders from Anbar, Kubaissa and Fallujah. We have come together again, this time publicly, for all the world to see.
But what is most amusing is that today the American Occupation's helicopters made a great entrance on the stage demonstrating that the American Administration really does believe the democracy it alleges it brought to Iraq is in fact equal to garbage… literally! It was funny and it is all on film: daily, since the vigil and demonstration started in Mosul, American helicopters buzzed the demonstrators and the demonstrators answered back by throwing their shoes at them in disdain! Today, the helicopters performed what they considered their coup de grace, by flying very low over their heads and throwing down bags of garbage. When the people were asked for comments they answered that the Americans throw garbage every day since the occupation: all the depleted uranium, all the white phosphorous, all the drugs, all the disease, tyranny, oppression, plunder, theft, lies and illiteracy they brought with them. So we, Iraqis, know everything and we will have justice at the end of the day, when a new dawn comes. The feeling is that it is going to be quite soon.
Lieven De Cauter is a philosopher, writer and activist. He teaches philosophy of culture (in Leuven, Brussels and Rotterdam). His latest books: The Capsular Civilization. On the City in the Age of Fear (2004) and, as co-editor, Heterotopia and the city (2008); Art and activism in the Age of globalization (2011). He is initiator of the BRussells Tribunal.