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Iraqis wanted to topple the system, but taboos fell instead

first_imgMocking clerics, falling in love at rallies and mending a broken society: even if Iraq’s young protesters have failed to overthrow entrenched politicians, they have scored by shattering decades-old taboos.Since October, the country of 40 million has been rocked by a historically large grassroots movement with big goals: ending corruption, unaccountable sectarian parties and overreach from neighboring Iran.Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi resigned in December, only to be replaced by ex-minister Mohammad Allawi, slammed by protesters as too close to the ruling elite.  Youth chant against a once-untouchable cluster of politicians and paramilitary commanders, and women spend nights in tents next to adult men. Students defy orders to return to class and neighborhoods once seen as dangerous are buzzing with people en route to demonstrate.Slogans like “Forget outdated traditions,” “End classism” and “No more differences” are trending on Twitter in Iraq. “Tahrir lets us dream,” wrote one activist whose friend — who ekes out a living driving a rickshaw — had fallen in love with a medic from a prestigious family. ‘More to life than surviving’ Since the 1970s, Iraq has endured Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime, back-to-back wars and devastating sanctions that isolated it from the world.There were few cellular phones and barely any internet access until the 2003 US-led invasion that collapsed Saddam’s nominally secular regime.Sectarian fighting gave rise to hardline Shiite and Sunni militias as society became more divided and religious.When Iraq defeated the Islamic State group in 2017 after years of fighting and displacement, many anticipated long-overdue peace and prosperity. “The young generation was in a coma for many years, but stability opened their eyes to the truth: there is more to life than just surviving,” said protester Ahmad Haddad, 32.”There’s living in dignity in a civil society, breaking conservative norms and loosening the grip of religious parties,” said Haddad.But instead of easing into normality, it was a sudden uprising that transformed Iraq.Hiyyam Shayea, a 50-year-old teacher in protest-hit Diwaniyah province, can testify to that. “There were some huge, surprising changes to a lot of social affairs,” said Shayea, wearing a traditional black robe at a recent rally in her hometown. Such a stance had long been unimaginable in the south, where tribal customs trump federal law and restrict women’s public role.But it has come at a high price. Around 550 people have been killed and 30,000 wounded in protest-related violence.”That was all for a homeland — one that’s civilized and civil, not backwards and outdated,” said Shayea. ‘In the end, what did you do?’Some are resisting the changes, describing rallies as hotbeds of promiscuity, alcohol and drugs, fuelled by the West.Leading Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr has tried to discredit the movement with such claims, insisting men and women stay separate and protests be “cleaned.” Women swiftly organized their own rally mocking Sadr, long untouchable because of his violent past as a militiaman and his diehard followers. In the protests’ early days, angry crowds slapped shoes against portraits of paramilitary leaders and Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who held tremendous sway in Baghdad and was never publicly criticized.Soleimani was later killed in a US strike.Demonstrators also railed against “muhassassa,” the sectarian power-sharing system governing Iraq after Saddam.Few current protesters are old enough to remember Saddam — 60 percent of the population is under 25 — and blame their elders for Iraq’s slide into broken politics.The rallies exposed “a huge rift” between the two generations, Iraqi researcher Khaled Hamza told AFP.”We’re in the middle of a spontaneous movement by a group of youth who weren’t expected to be responsible for achieving what our generation couldn’t,” said Hamza, who is in his 60s.Protesters recognize it, too. In Baghdad, a woman in a pink headscarf carried a sign: “In the end, I made a revolution. What did you do?”Further south in oil-rich Basra, Heba, a protester in her 20s, said the rallies have changed her.”They strengthened our personalities, made us distinguish between right and wrong and demand our rights,” she said. The movement is now at a crossroads: numbers have dwindled as activists face an intimidation campaign and parties seek to recapture momentum with a new cabinet.”Now, it’s time to unite under a new vision, a plan that addresses Iraqis’ needs,” said protester Mohammad al-Ajeel.”What’s happening is huge, but it’s new for us. We can’t expect everything to happen overnight,” said Ajeel, a businessman living between Iraq and the UAE.”It may need years.” But what they have so far been unable to win politically, demonstrators have made up for with social change. “We scored one goal by bringing down the government, but socially we achieved much more,” said Ali Khraybit, 28.His best friend just proposed to a girl he met marching in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the anti-government movement’s epicenter. Like other squares across Iraq’s mainly-Shiite south, Tahrir has become a social experiment, a free space where conservative norms have been toppled. center_img Topics :last_img read more

Women of Troy upset Washington

first_imgThe No. 7 USC women’s volleyball team did not enter this weekend’s games at the Galen Center simply to win — it wanted to make a statement. A Friday night matchup against a No. 1 Washington team that was responsible for one of USC’s three losses was apparently the perfect opportunity for redemption.Supporting · Junior outside hitter Sara Shaw, who ranks third on USC’s team with 234 kills, delivered 15 kills against Washington at a .128 clip. – Austin Vogel | Daily TrojanThe Women of Troy played arguably their most thrilling game of the season Friday, knocking down the Huskies in five grueling sets before a sweep of the Washington State Cougars on Saturday night. The victories boost No. 7 USC’s record to 21-3 overall and 9-3 in Pac-12 play.“Just to win these games is extremely good,” USC coach Mick Haley said. “We wanted to get better as a team, and I think we accomplished that. We also got our confidence up to a pretty good level.”Though the Cougars gave their all Saturday night, they simply couldn’t match up with the Women of Troy, who recorded their 15th sweep of the season with a 25-13, 25-17, 25-18 victory. They were particularly dominant in the first set, as the Women of Troy built an insurmountable 21-9 lead before freshman middle blocker Alicia Ogoms knocked down consecutive kills to seal the set.The second set was a similar story, as Shaw recorded a kill to put USC up 19-9. The Cougars rebounded to make it close, but Young notched consecutive kills before an attack error gave the Women of Troy the set. The hosts put on a hitting clinic, attacking at a .600 clip in the opening frame before hitting .316 in the middle set.The final set was much tighter, as the Cougars rebounded from a 15-8 hole to come to within 16-15. The Women of Troy, however, went on a 6-1 run, highlighted by three alternating Shaw kills, the last of which sealed the match for the Women of Troy.“We played a lot of people, and we got to practice the game situations and be successful,” Haley said. “I felt like we had a successful weekend after practicing to our strengths.”Against the Huskies, the Women of Troy were once again paced by freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio, who took advantage of the five-set match by registering a career-high 30 kills and 12 digs to help take out the Huskies. Throughout both games, though, junior outside hitter Sara Shaw rose to center stage. After recording 15 kills and a career high 30 digs against Washington, she posted a career-high 18 kills against the Cougars, notching a .643 hitting percentage with no errors.“The Washington match was definitely a tough one for us, but I think it was a good five games,” Shaw said. “Coming back to win that match definitely boosted our confidence.”Against the Huskies, the Women of Troy twice had to come back from deficits to win, an unfamiliar situation considering the dominance with which they’ve been able to put opponents away from the start. After falling behind 2-1, the Women of Troy fought hard during the fourth set, taking the Huskies to an 18-all tie before registering four straight points to go up 22-20. Bricio then knocked down a powerful kill to take the set 25-23 and tie the match at two apiece.It was only fitting that the fifth and final set was as close as the others, as the teams were tied at eight before the Women of Troy ran away with it. Senior opposite Katie Fuller knocked down a kill for a 13-9 lead, after which junior libero Natalie Hagglund and sophomore setter Emily Young combined to set up Bricio for a kill to end the set 15-10 and claim the match for the hosts.“When we left Washington, we felt like we should have won, even though they beat us 3-0 up there,” Haley said. “We weren’t in sync in that match. I thought that we could have won in three [sets] over here, but we made too many errors in the beginning. However, as we kept playing we got more and more confident, so winning in five was fine.”After the perfect, two-week homestand, the Women of Troy will again hit the road, with games at  Arizona State and Arizona this weekend.“Winning on the road is extremely important for us, because we have six of our ten matches on the road in the second round,” Haley said. “We’ll take them one at a time, and we need to take them seriously and prepare for that.”last_img read more