News, videos and images emerging from Iraq over the past few weeks have polarised opinion amongst political pundits, media commentators and, most devastatingly, Iraqis themselves.
The ISIS-led debacle has gripped international attention for its sheer speed, unprecedented brutality (unprecedented only for the selectively amnesic – cue Taliban’s massacre of Hazara Afghans to name but one instance of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by “Islamist militants”) and its implications for Iraq and the wider region. In my naive opinion, it’s symptomatic of how low humanity has got that headlines are made only when the international geopolitical status quo is under threat; as if the deaths of millions of innocent civilians, and the inconceivable suffering endured by people affected by war, as if all that weren’t cause for concern within corridors of power. That’s another matter altogether, though.
I don’t live in Iraq and harbour no ambition to live in my forefathers’ homeland anytime soon. Therefore, I will not offer my opinion on what may have triggered this latest setback for Iraq and Iraqis. However, it’s incredibly frustrating to see people I know toe the oft-sectarian, Us vs Them line that serves no purpose other than deepen the rift caused by self-interested thugs. These thugs take on a variety of guises and come under a range of names and banners, but they all have only themselves in mind. It’s time we stopped barricading ourselves behind religious and ethnic groupings, and stood together for once in total opposition and unequivocal rejection of ISIS or anyone trying to implement some foreign agenda on Iraqi soil.
The country has faced innumerable crises throughout its age-old and illustrious past. Iraq’s history is dotted with glittering successes that have shaped humanity as we know it, but it is also saturated with blood, needlessly shed alongside its two rivers’ banks. Idealistic though I may sound, I remain convinced that no matter how things pan out over the coming weeks, months and years, Iraq, and Syria, will stand tall even if both countries’ entire populations were lined up and summarily executed at the hands of ISIS and its affiliates, or even if they fled and sought safety elsewhere. It’s not the first hurdle Iraq has faced, and it certainly won't be the last. If some political clairvoyants are to be believed, cartographers are set to redraw a map already plagued by Sykes-Picot’s haphazard agreement. Even then, Iraqis will be there, unfazed and unwavering.
Today, whilst suspects in suits wrangle over who gets what as they slice up the parliamentary pizza, Iraq’s detractors are hard at work in galvanising bearded mercenaries disguised as Muslim liberators. The likelihood is that an elaborate proxy war is being fought out in Iraq and Syria, one where far-flung powers are locking horns through loyal, subservient regional surrogates. Whatever the truth is, we’ve seen enough bloodshed to last us a lifetime. Although I take great pride in my memory, I hold faint hope in a scientific breakthrough that would enable us to erase the scenes of gratuitous savagery that have blighted our world over the past few years, particularly the appalling crimes committed by “Islamist militants” whilst they proclaimed godly endorsement.
For millions of Iraqis, this latest crisis is another inevitable hurdle in their country’s bumpy road to a sense of national stability that has so far proven elusive. The government’s loose grip on security, coupled with sparse supplies of water and electricity, has made this dire state of affairs the hallmark of post-2003 life in what is, fundamentally, a mega oil-rich country. Sadly, for many others, Ramadhan, usually observed with cautious jubilation, will usher in a new reality, one where the law of the land is defined by an antiquated and archaic interpretation of Islam.
I am siding with no-one except those whose words and actions are guided by immaterial, intangible values, as opposed to those whose backbones are emblazoned with a dollar sign, and whose souls reek of crude oil.
It must be noted that in calling these assailants “Islamist extremists” we are unwittingly giving the new rulers of Mosul and large swathes of Iraq and Syria a halo of religious strife and divine indignation – a cause they are ostensibly marching towards whilst they trample on what’s left of human decency.