In Basra, is it a revolution or a disaster?

Hazem al-Amin
Hazem al-Amin
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“A revolution in Basra”. Is this enough to make us, we who got bloodied by revolutions due to the extent of our attraction to them, rejoice? The revolution there is against what? Corruption? What is corrupt and who is the corrupt in Iraq? Who is the non-corrupt power that is supposed to turn the revolution into a political condition?

The Arab revolutions failed, with the exception for Tunisia which had its own set of conditions that are not available in all Arab countries. The revolutions in Syria, Yemen and Libya failed. However, these revolutions had a clear opponent and their purposes were also clear. Those meant to be overthrown were regimes led by a dictator, a specific authority and corrupt relations.

In Iraq, none of these conditions seem to be prevailing. Who is the main target of this revolution then? Is it Iran, or the sectarian forces? Nothing is clear. In other words, the failure which Arab revolutions suffered from is much worse in Iraq. It is for this reason that cheering for a “revolution in Basra” is a sign of ignorance that we find ourselves being dragged to, we, the worshippers of “peoples” and who stamp revolutions with integrity while overlooking the civil wars that stand behind them.

Protestors attacked the Iranian consulate in Basra, thus it is a revolution against Iranian influence! We thus have to further cheer for the demonstrators! However, the city gave plenty of votes to Iran’s allies in the parliamentary elections which were held months ago. The demonstrators attacked security centers and government headquarters which are currently headed by Haider al-Abadi, whom Iran does not want! Then how would this be right, that the “revolution” in Basra is against Iran?

Those cheering for the “revolution” should ponder on the prospects of its success and the political dispensation that may follow it. Let us imagine that Basra’s revolution turns into a revolution in all of Iraq and overthrows the authority! Is there any political or social power that can replace the current authority? Is it outside the sectarian and national scene that is dominating Iraq and distributing the spoils to the leaders of the sects, clans and nationalities?

Those cheering for a ‘revolution in Basra’ should ponder on the prospects of its success and the political dispensation that may follow it.

Hazem al-Amin

The Arab revolutions succeeded in overthrowing and threatening the regimes. Even in Syria, people managed to say that they do not want this regime. The major problem is the failure of these societies and their inability to produce political powers that can carry this change and turn it into a “national” achievement. The Muslim Brotherhood was the horizon of failure in most of the countries where revolutions happened, and this horizon, despite its misery, is not even available in Iraq. The social and sectarian scene there is of a different kind, and looking for a “Shiite Brotherhood” will lead to the Dawa Party, which is in power right now. Thus it is illogical to reinstate it after rebelling against it.

In 2005 in Lebanon, we got involved in what we thought to be a revolution against the Syrian invasion. We got the Syrian army out and replaced it with Hezbollah, after the sectarian leaders took control of our “revolution”.

Taking over revolutions is easier than starting them in the civil war societies we live in. Rebelling against the corrupt and murderous authority should be preceded by a revolution against social infrastructure, which has been a partner in producing this authority.

The Dawa Party is a replacement of the Dawa Party in Iraq, just as the General People's Congress was a replacement of the General People's Congress in Yemen, or in best case Al-Islah (the Muslim Brotherhood) is the alternative. In Syria too, Islamists came on top of the scene and represented the alternative, hence, it became easier for the regime to end the revolution, and something similar happened in Egypt.

We should slow down before cheering for the “revolution in Basra”. It is not enough to hate the regime and realize the extent of its dependence and corruption in order to believe in a revolution against it. What if the conclusion of our thoughts is that the post-revolution regime will be worse or that a massive civil war will erupt?

Iraq needs to take major steps that must precede the revolution as this is the way to prevent the revolution from turning into a disaster.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon’s most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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