Iraqi Ire Turns On Leadership

Iraqis are increasingly angry with their government and protests are growing over the lack of services and the failure of Iraq's political leaders to form a new cabinet.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

It's been more than five months since Iraq held parliamentary elections yet the political parties there still can't agree on how to form a government. As the long hot days of August wear on and electricity remains in short supply, Iraqis here are angry and increasingly defiant. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports from Baghdad.

KELLY MCEVERS: First, there were the protests in July, when people across southern Iraq took to the streets demanding that politicians form a government and solve the electricity crisis. Then there were sit-ins and shouting matches at public events here in Baghdad, and a round of YouTube videos accusing politicians of selfishness and corruption.

Now, it's safe to say, the murmur of frustration in Iraq has grown to a roar of anger.

Unidentified Person: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: The most recent protest was staged by women's groups in front of Parliament here in Baghdad. Parliamentarians have met a total of two times since the March 7th elections.

Unidentified Person: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Still, Iraqi parliamentarians go on receiving their salaries - $10,000 a month plus 50,000 for security. This in a country where war widows have stopped receiving government support, shouts Hana Adwar, who helped organize the rally.

Ms. HANA ADWAR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: We demand you politicians to hold a session today, she says. In the name of the people who voted for you, act in our interest, not your own.

Ms. AFAF FAQRI: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: This woman, Afaf Faqri, says she hoped the new government would make her life a little more bearable. Now she's tired of waiting.

Ms. FACRI: We have no clean water, no electricity. My kids left school to make money collecting old cans. My son died in violence. I'm asking the politicians to find a solution. They are sitting and doing nothing in air-conditioned houses while I borrow money to pay for a generator. We sacrifice everything but we gain nothing.

MCEVERS: At issue is the fact that no single political party won a clear enough majority in the election to form a government. The top two vote-getters, the parties of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, could enter into a power-sharing agreement. But neither seems willing to budge over who gets the top job.

These days it's not just people in the streets who are angry.

Mr. JALALALDDEEN AL-SAGHIR (Sheikh): (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: During his sermon at recent Friday prayers, Sheikh Jalalalddeen al-Saghir moved quickly from religion to politics. Even if we do get a prime minister, what then, he says. Is the issue an empty chair to be filled or about empty programs that have not been completed?

Ahmed al-Abyad is a former member of parliament. He says elections were supposed to bring reconciliation to this fractured society, but instead they only brought division. He says the parties of Maliki and Allawi got millions of votes five months ago but they wouldn't get the same votes today.

Mr. AHMED AL-ABYAD (Former Member, Parliament): (Through translator) These two believe that they have no belief in people, they have no belief in their own people; otherwise they could have changed anything.

MCEVERS: Al-Abyad says the situation will only get worse, especially now that many Iraqis have begun fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Empty stomachs, rising temperatures and the lack of a government, he says, could be a dangerous combination.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.