From Baghdad to Minneapolis: “We too want to breathe”

Baghdad | On Tahrir Square in Baghdad or on Twitter, advice, grievances and comments are raining. In a country invaded 17 years ago by the United States and the scene last fall of an unprecedented revolt, the American demonstrations awaken memories.

Yassine Alaa joined the protests at the iconic Tahrir Square in the Iraqi capital on October 1. Eight months later, he is still there, even though the protesters’ tents are mostly empty.

For him, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who march to denounce racism and demand justice for George Floyd, killed in Minneapolis by a policeman kneeling on his neck, “are courageous”.

“They have every reason to be angry but riots are not the solution,” said the 20-year-old Iraqi to AFP, who cannot forget the repression that has killed 550 people in Iraq in recent months – and so many families still awaiting justice.

“Don’t burn anything, don’t do anything about it, because the police will fall on you and the situation will get out of hand,” he said, after seeing the looting and riot scenes in the media. enameled the movement in the United States.

“Injustice”

The United States, Ali Essam has never set foot there. But in his city of Basra, in southern Iraq, this black-skinned Iraqi – a descendant of African slaves present in the country for more than 1,000 years – knows racism well.

“But racism here is different, people make racist jokes, while in the United States, having black skin means that everyone looks at you as a danger,” the director told AFP. 34 year old scene.

“It’s a racial war going on in the United States, while our problems are sectarian and political,” said Haider Karim, 31, who regularly calls family members who emigrate to the United States. to discuss the latest developments.

“What we have in common with the American demonstrators is the injustice that we all suffer”, continues this Iraqi who himself participated in the “October Revolution” repressed in blood and now dormant.

If some draw parallels, others would only want one thing: that on both sides, we forget the Other a little.

In Arabic, on Twitter, the hashtags “We want to breathe” and “America revolts” quickly flooded the screens. The first refers to the last words of George Floyd, the second is a hijacking of “Iraq revolts” launched shortly before the start of the “October Revolution”.

But if Minneapolis, New York or Los Angeles are in everyone’s mind in Baghdad, Basra or elsewhere – in a country which has very many expatriates in the United States – Iraq, invaded in 2003 then occupied by the administration of George W. Bush, is also a symbol in the country of Uncle Sam.

“Leave us alone”

“It is not Baghdad. It is the United States, ”many Americans tweeted, under shots of burning buildings, looting or riots that spattered protests against racial inequality in dozens of American cities for days.

“Stop associating Baghdad with the chaos,” retorts an annoyed Iraqi surfer. “Leave us alone,” prevails another, while others point out that the same army deployed today by President Donald Trump on American soil is that which invaded Iraq and perpetrated torture and other atrocities, in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison for example.

And like a new echo, the paratroopers of the 82nd division who recently dispersed the demonstrators in Washington just returned from mission … in Iraq!

Ironic and bitter, other Internet users still note that in 2003, at the time when administrations, banks, museums and other ministries were looted en masse in Baghdad, the American Secretary of State for Defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, justified the chaos.

“Looting is the natural consequence of the transition from dictatorship to a free country,” he said then.

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