Iraq: Protests and Young People Between Modernity and Tradition


Iraqi youth have been at the forefront of political and social change, spearheading the protests that have been taking place over the past few months.

Young people in Iraq have been the pioneers of the revolution being witnessed in the country. Changes are not only occurring in terms of political and economic reforms, but they are also being seen on a societal level, as young people are adapting to modern times, embracing new ways of living and adopting more tolerant attitudes to difference.

“Iraqi society is moving on from a state of backwardness. We have accepted other people’s freedoms, for other people to go out, worship and speak as they wish and to say what they want. We have got rid of all forms of harassment, especially here in Tahrir [Square]”, expressed a protester in Baghdad.

Women, who have been playing a crucial role in the protests in Iraq, are embedded in the societal changes occurring in the country. Traditional perspectives regarding the place of women in society have been shifting at a face pace, and the atmosphere in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Iraqi protests, is testament to this change.

“The most important thing is eliminating harassment. We have suffered from that as girls but now nothing of the sort is happening here”, stated Nour, a female protester.

Despite the violence that has taken place during the protests, which has until now taken almost 500 lives, the cultural and artistic scene has also blossomed, bringing colour and new ideas to a society that has at times been stifled by traditionalism and sectarianism.

Tangible changes have occurred at the top level of politics in Iraq as a result of the protests, including the resignation of prime minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi and the approval of the new electoral law, which have been demands expressed by the protesters. Nevertheless, it is the more intangible and gradual changes taking place among the youth and their relationships with one another that will mould the politics and society of the Iraq of tomorrow.