Iraqis Reclaim Their Streets

By Ben Cohen

Unknown to most westerners, many Iraqis have been fighting for peace

and democracy in their country since the U.S led invasion. With the U.S

essentially selling off Iraq’s natural resources to its own

corporations
, the country quickly fell apart due to the lack of proper

post war planning. Despite the rhetoric about ‘bringing freedom’ to the

Middle East, the U.S has done little to enact serious political change

in the country, blocking democracy movements, and ramming through its

own corporate friendly legislation. While the country burnt, American commentators blamed Iraqis for the catastrophe, accusing the Arab nation of being ‘ungrateful’, and ‘unready for democracy’.

In a sign that further dismisses this imperialist notion that Iraqis are ‘incapable of looking after themselves’, community based groups around the country are banding together to reclaim their streets from criminal gangs and militias.

From the Guardian:

Under the embers of the wintry evening sun the Tigris river, usually as

brown as old boots, had turned almost blood red. Its waters were calm

but its oily sheen was disturbed by the oars of a rower as he sculled

his way through the city’s fractured heart.

Alone and apparently

indifferent to the threat of a sniper’s bullet, Muhammad Rafiq eased up

on his stroke rate and tacked over to the shore. He hauled his craft up

the bank to a mosque – the temporary headquarters for his rowing club

since US soldiers had commandeered its real boathouse in 2003. Inside

the courtyard, his forehead beaded with sweat, Muhammad laid a few old

blankets over his upturned boat and padlocked the oars to a railing.

“My

friends said I was mad when I started rowing,” said the 22-year-old

former science student. “They said I would be sharing the river with

dead bodies and that people would shoot at me. But it keeps me fit and

it keeps me focused for my night work.” As dusk fell, he checked the

contents of his kit bag, slung it over his shoulder and jumped into a

waiting taxi.

Fifteen minutes later, he had made it through

checkpoints and concrete blast barriers en route to his home in al-Amil

district of west Baghdad. At a makeshift barricade close to the street

where he was born he greeted the sentries as friends. Then he unzipped

his kit bag and pulled out a Kalashnikov. And for the next six

uneventful hours he stood guard with his peers behind the straggles of

barbed wire.

“I help to keep the peace so that I can row in

peace, and that is my passion,” said Muhammad, who asked that neither

his real name nor that of his rowing club be used. “Now when I go out

on the river, you can hear the birds and the hum of the generators.

When I began it was only gunfire and bombs.”

Muhammad is one of

the thousands of young Baghdadi men to have joined neighbourhood

security groups, which have mushroomed over the last year and are a

crucial factor in the dramatic decline in civilian deaths. US soldiers

call them “concerned local citizens”; Iraqis just call them sahwa

(awakening) after the so-called Anbar awakening in western Iraq, which

has seen Sunni tribal sheikhs take on foreign-led Islamists.

To read the full article, click here.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.