The reality of Iraqi youth between the destructive present and the unknown future

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Youth, over the ages, have been the cornerstones in building, developing and advancing societies for a better future for their society. As for Iraq, it abounds with a tremendous youth capacity that represents nearly two-thirds of the population, and aspires to advance the country through development, construction and change.

The Iraqi youth, like the rest of the Arab youth, have civilizational, cultural and intellectual roots that go back in history, which makes them able to move the country from the current setback that it is going through, and overcome the factors of frustration, despair and weakness that stands in front of their dreams and aspirations. In spite of what has been mentioned earlier, it is worthy to mention the past of this youth, especially for the past 70 years, let us address the last kings of Iraq. The young king Faisal II, who was in his time represent the ambitious face of Iraqi youth. after that the revolution of July 14, 1958, led by Abdul Karim Qasim has just started, where it has its impact on the youth circles, the Iraqi youth were the nucleus of all political movements in the country and the main engine for managing the country in the best way for the sake of advancing Iraq in that period. An example for that was the launch of the unions, in which the youth were its fuel and the cornerstone of it, the Iraqi youth at that time possessed a great ambition, culture and awareness that would enable them to run the country. Parties existed in abundance at that stage and they were effective and influential in the Iraqi street, perhaps what existed within the Iraqi youth during that period was a unique patriotism and a sense of belonging to the homeland, that you can’t find at the present time, in addition to a wondrous awareness that was unique to young people at that time. The result of that awareness was the revolution in 1963 and then in 1968, which was purely youthful efforts and movements. Unfortunately, the Iraqi youth did not last long, then they began to be thrown into the various battlefields and became a fuel for conflicts and wars for a long time, so the aspirations of this youth faded and disappeared day after day to the present day. As for what Iraqi youth live from 2003 and the years that followed that year until this year, the simplest thing to say about this stage is the entry of Iraqi youth into a dark tunnel that squandered their ambitions and wasted their energies. Perhaps this is what politicians and warlords wanted, and they became fuel for conflict and unrest and a major reason for stopping the wheel of the economy, the social and security instability that the country is living. What led the Iraqi youth to be a negative condition in society instead of being a positive case? Who is responsible for the behavioral and intellectual deviation of a large segment of them? And why did sectarianism reach even the dreams of young people, so that their aspirations became different between North, Central and South? I believe that the answer to these questions is clear and well known to the reader. According to the vision of some observers, the Iraqi youth are no longer identical in their aspirations and visions for the future, as the years of war and sectarian have distorted those dreams and aspirations, and each group has different concerns and hopes. Some youths of the south found themselves in sectarian project that serve no body but a bigger agenda that are looking to control Iraq. Meanwhile, some young men of the center, disaffected by political marginalization and security abuse, found a place to express their discontent with injustice and persecution and sectarian policies produced by the complex conditions that the country went through, especially during the era of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. In addition, the observer finds that the Kurdish youth live in another reality, and they bear different concerns, as they seek after their desired nation-state, not interacting with the political trends and movements forming in the country, nor with the pains that youth suffer in the rest of the country. Thus, the scene is very complex. Evidence for this includes: The demonstrations that took place in Iraq over the past years is an evidence of the various concerns of Iraqi youth between North, Central and South. As one observer says, “Sunni youth demonstrated in 2013 in protest against political marginalization, security restrictions and arbitrary detention that the government was practicing in their areas, demanding practical and lasting solutions to their problems, at that time, no one went out with them. No one, and they did not find even words in support of their legitimate demands from the south and north, and it seemed as if they were living in another country. Rather, the authorities dealt with them with all cruelty and violence, until they made the people in those areas psychologically prepared to replace the government with whatever, so the “state” organization took advantage of that opportunity, then The result was devastation, killing and displacement that its effects still remain until today. The same thing happened with the Kurds in 2017, as they went out in mass demonstrations to protest against delayed salaries, poor services and rampant corruption, and their loud voices did not find an echo at that time in central and southern of Iraq. And finally, the recent demonstrations that erupted in Baghdad and southern governorates, and what is surprising is that the demands that the people of the center and the north have previously called for and were demanded by the people of Tahrir Square and the rest of the other squares as well. But it is the sectarianism that has reached a dangerous level in the hearts of the people, and this is how the rulers they came after 2003 want it to be, because they find in this situation a major factor for their survival And their continuation. As for the last of these movements and awakenings for Iraqi youth, it is the October Revolution of 2019, which it is our duty to call a revolution, whether it has achieved its goals or not. Because it is a youth revolution, not a party revolution, an ambitious revolution, not a revolution based on a political gains and a life revolution, not a revolution of death for the generation, revolution that rejected corruption in all its forms and manifestations. A generation’s revolution that did not witness what Iraq went through in terms of successive governments that followed the monarchy, a revolution of a generation that knew nothing about Iraq except injustice, oppression, and the deterioration of the reality of life. What motivated the youth of the October 2019 revolution, are their suffering, and their denial of the simplest conditions for decent living, including water, electricity, and job opportunities, and their apprehension of corruption whales and theft of the public money, and the traffickers of their religion, sect and sacredities, and their rejection of Iranian influence. It is a revolution in which no fingers hide behind it, whether it is the eastern, northern, southern, or western borders. The revolution is Iraqi, youthful and spontaneous. As it is known to all, the Iraqi youth was not spared in their last movement of oppression on all levels, voices were silenced, activists were assassinated, the Internet was cut off, and this revolution was confronted with all possible means to abort it and kill the remaining ambitions of Iraqi youth. Today, Iraqi youth are living in the most difficult circumstance in their history, as they view a tired history, a devastating present, and an unknown future. The process of silencing the voices led by the militias and what stands with them and supports them from the parties in power, including the killing and assassination of activists, continues in an attempt to eradicate the remaining ambitions of this youth. Finally, the question remains: Can the Iraqi youth rise from this bitter reality and save the country from what it is going through? Will Iraqi youth see their civil state in which everyone lives a decent life based on citizenship, rights preservation and the provision of livelihoods? Perhaps most importantly, is there anyone willing to support these young people for the sake of a stable, independent, secure Iraq and a quiet surrounding area?

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Thualfuqar Center for Strategic Studies, Research and Human Rights .... Thualfuqar center is a private, independent research institution concerned with public affairs in Iraq and the effects of its regional and international environment.

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