By Rusul Mustafa
I was only nine years old at the beginning of the American-Iraqi war, but I vividly remember every single detail. My family and I were eating dinner at the table on a March evening in 2003 when all of a sudden, we heard an alarm indicating an American bombing on the Iraqi military. Since then, the Iraqi people have not lived in peace as attacks like this from different parties continued until now, sixteen years later.
We had to leave everything at that moment and hide in a small underground room that my father set up to protect and prevent us from hearing loud noises caused by the bombs. The war lasted only one month before America took complete control over Iraq, and everything drastically changed. I remember the time my father and I went out to deliver food to our neighbor—a family tradition—when we saw two American military tanks standing 15 feet away from our house. Not only did the Americans not let us go, but they shot their guns in the air to scare us into making us go back inside our house. After five years of a complete and total mess, America finally withdrew, but not without leaving unknown, unskilled, and uneducated people to govern the country upon their leave. These are some of the worst times for Iraqi citizens.
According to the American government, the purpose of the invasion was to provide the Iraqi people a better life by eliminating their dictator at the time, President Saddam Hussain. Most people assume that the American government did Iraq a favor by invading it and providing new people to govern the country and its sources, but unfortunately, the truth is totally different. I lived in Iraq up until 2016 and struggled, like any other Iraqi citizen, from the lack of basic life services such as electricity, employment, and good education. Most Iraqis were in a complete shock because we know our country is very rich due to the oil that we have. Perhaps that’s the real reason behind the United States’ invasion of Iraq anyway: personal economic interest. The situation in Iraq was so severe that my brothers and I were not allowed to leave the house except for school because our parents were so scared that we could get kidnapped or killed by unknown forces. Although several elections happened in order to elect a better government, forgery of the election documents always occurred to keep the existing
Iraqi government intact.
My family left Iraq in 2016 to find a better life for ourselves. My middle brother left to Sweden while my father, mother and I came to the United States. Unfortunately, my older brother could not leave because he and his family did not get approval to travel. I made sure to stay in contact with him all the time. The situation almost stabilized between 2017 and 2018, but the lack of basic life services and poverty still exist till this day. Although many small protests have happened demanding these services, the government never responded.
On October 1, another peaceful protest started demanding the same simple things, particularly employment but, this time the Iraqi government, especially the new American and Iranian-supported prime minister Adel Abud-Al Mahdi, responded with violence: Tear gas, bombs, live bullets, and snipers were attacking innocent people only because they wanted simple things. Violent videos on social media showed the suppression. But then the prime minister cut off the Internet and attacked TV platforms live-streaming protests, completely isolating Iraqis from the world, some of them imprisoned at home, others dying in the streets. My parents and I could not get a hold of my brother until three days later he called to say his family was “ok as long as they stay at home.” This is the same phrase that our parents told me and my siblings sixteen years ago during the American-Iraqi war.
A whole new generation came, and Iraq never changed only because of a corrupted government supported by powerful countries. In the last few weeks, one hundred protesters, who went out with no guns to demand their rights, the same rights that we never got even after 16 years of the United States withdrawing from Iraq, were killed, almost 4,000 were injured, and 500 were arrested. They were young ranging between 20-24 years old and some of them were under 15 years old. Watching these violent videos makes me feel powerless and even guilty. Had I remained in Iraq, I would have been there fighting for my rights amidst all these protests. I may be one of the lucky ones who’ve escaped, but there are still hundreds of Iraqi people who did not.
It’s no surprise that the American people are completely ignorant of what’s happening in Iraq, and that’s what I want to bring your attention. Even though social media has been filled with videos and pictures of these protests, world leaders have not intervened to stop the Iraqi government from killing its own people, news channels are not broadcasting these events as a matter of importance, and no one around me seems to be distressed. After 16 years, Iraq suffers from the same turmoil it faced before and increasingly after the US invasion.
Enough is enough: we will not settle down until our voices are heard; we will not stop until our rights are returned; we will not stop until every member of the Iraqi government pays for these violent attacks.
Please—become aware of the situation and help spread the message showing the violence of the Iraqi government. Please— help us get our country back.