Jindal School of Journalism And Communication
O.P. Jindal Global University
Iraq, an almost failed state, has seen 17 years of brutality and destruction; killing people in thousands. To add to the years of agony, Iraq continues with its lockdown, initially announced on March 22nd due to the life-threatening Covid-19. As per records, the virus has affected 2,913 Iraqis as of now but in reality, it’s affected the whole nation. Locked within the unprotected and frail walls of their houses, Iraqis are used to living a life under curfew. However, without an income and food to buy, people are afraid that they might die of hunger before they die of the virus. There are uncountable challenges that Iraq’s healthcare, security and economy face, but the nation managed to exist without a government for 6 months, until 7th May 2020. Iraq’s parliament has finally approved of a new government, headed by Prime Minister Mustafa-al Khadimi, who promises to tackle the Covid-19 situation immediately and effectively.
Healthcare system: Before the war in 2003, Iraq had one of the best healthcare systems in the Arab world. As of now, 70% of its health infrastructure is in complete shambles. After Coronavirus was declared as an epidemic in February, the Iraqi minister of health demanded $5 billion and a further $10 billion to buy testing kits and a variety of important medical equipment, but since a new budget hasn’t been approved yet, the government has failed to respond to the requirements of the minister (Alem, 2020). Apart from the required equipment, Iraq has failed to provide its people with enough hospital accommodation. As per WHO, there are only 14 beds available for every 10,000 people in Iraq, as opposed to the developed nations like France, which have 60 beds for every 10,000 people (Aboulenein & Levinson, 2020). In addition, religious authorities, tribes and townspeople have sent multiple corpses of Covid-19 infected victims back to hospital morgues, where bodies have been piling up creating an unforeseen burden on the medical infrastructure. People are frightened that the virus could somehow spread through corpses putting to halt the process of burying and cremating bodies. Grieving families have been threatened to death in case they wish to bury their loved ones in burial sites. The lack of compatibility existing between people and the government only adds to the increasing misery of the nation.
 Outlook. “In Iraq, No Resting Place for Coronavirus Dead.”https://www.outlookindia.com/. outlookindia.com, March 30, 2020. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/in-iraq-no-resting-place-for-coronavirus-dead/1784751
The economic crisis: The continuous confinement along with the measures the government is being compelled to take, the prevailing economic crisis has further deepened. Iraq is the second-largest producer of oil in OPEC and yet, it has failed to balance out its finances and has lost $11 billion in four months due to the plunging oil prices (MEMO, 2020). 85% of Iraq’s state budget and 60% of its GDP comes from petrochemical revenues, which indicates that the nation has lost more than half of its financial revenues (Alem, 2020). Besides that, Iraq has a close to non-existing private sector, an enlarged labor force on government payroll, lack of social security nets and an increasing unemployment rate (Mahessar, 2020). As per Iraq’s UN profile, the nation has an 11% unemployment rate. Since more than half of the nation’s population is younger than the age of 21, unemployment amongst them is as high as 22.8%, as of 2011. 60% of full-time employment, in 2011, came from the public sector and to tackle the issue of Coronavirus, Iraqi officials may consider cutting almost 35% of public sector salaries, which may lead to devastating consequences (Country Profile).
- Attempts of comeback by ISIS: To make matters worse, a string of Ramzan invasions have been executed by the terrorist organization, ISIS. According to the official Security Media cell, Iraqi security forces recorded 7 attacks during Ramadan, which began on April 23. (2020) ISIS has little control left in Iraq, but it took advantage of the wavering attention of the security forces and made its move, subsequently causing unrest amidst the lockdown. In the first few days of May, the city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, saw a suicide bomber walking into the intelligence headquarters before detonating his load in a fireball. Only a few days after the incident, ISIS militants executed a nighttime attack on a government affiliated militia checkpoint in Baghdad. The two cities have continued to witness more such attacks. (Loveluck & Salim, ISIS exploits Iraq’s coronavirus lockdown to step up attacks, 2020)
- Rampant domestic violence: Iraq’s lockdown has led to the emergence of another crisis— domestic violence. “The head of Iraq’s community police, Brigadier General Ghalib Atiyah, told the news agency, AFP (Agence France-Presse) that its log of domestic violence cases has increased by an average of 30% since the curfew came into force; with some areas seeing as high as a 50% spike.” (AFP, 2020) Household violence during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased around the globe, but in Iraq, the violence has reached such a degree that the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has had to “raise the alarm” and warn its citizens. While Iraq lacks an anti-domestic violence law, the first section of article 41 of the Iraqi Penal Code, allows “the punishment of a wife by her husband,” considering it “to be in exercise of a legal right.” The section has been used as a justification for the violence against women, and reaffirmed by the Iraqi Supreme Court, which in 2019 refused that such a section enables domestic violence.” (KirkukNow, 2020)
With or without the Coronavirus outbreak, Iraq has been dealing with numerous challenges— Militancy matters regarding ISIS, a failing economy, the existing violence between Iranian-backed militias & U.S. forces, and unseating of the former Prime Minister by the largest grass-roots protest movement in the country’s history. (Loveluck & Salim, Iraq’s Economy Is Collapsing under the Double Blow of Sinking Oil Prices and Coronavirus Lockdown, 2020) With the ongoing conflict and excessive distrust of the people in the Iraqi government, the Iraqi protest movement may erupt like never before, upon easing of restrictions on the lockdown. People want development, better living conditions, an end to corruption and political cronyism and their fight for this might be afforded & aided by the pandemic.
Helba, Mohamed. (2020, May 12). Iraq Records 95 New Coronavirus Cases. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from Sada El balad: https://see.news/raq-records-95-new-coronavirus-cases-total-t-at913/.
Outlook, PTI. (2020, March 30) In Iraq, No Resting Place for Coronavirus Dead. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from Outlook: https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/in-iraq-no-resting-place-for-coronavirus-dead/1784751.
Karim, Ammar. (2020, March 30) In Iraq, No Resting Place for Coronavirus Dead. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from The Times of Israel: https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-iraq-no-resting-place-for-coronavirus-dead/.
Alem, H. (2020, May 11). In Iraq, a Destroyed State Struggles to Cope With Coronavirus. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from The Wire: https://thewire.in/world/in-iraq-a-destroyed-state-struggles-to-cope-with-coronavirus
Aboulenein, A., & Levinson, R. (2020, March 02). Reuters Special Report: The medical crisis that’s aggravating Iraq’s unrest. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/iraq-health/
MEMO. (2020, May 12 2020). Iraq loses $11bn in four months as oil prices plunge. Retrieved May 13, 2020 from Middle East Monitor: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200512-iraq-loses-11bn-in-four-months-as-oil-prices-plunge/
Mahessar, F. H. (2020, April 30). Iraq’s economy is in for a bumpy ride. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from Rudaw: https://www.rudaw.net/english/analysis/30042020
Iraq, U. N. (n.d.). Country Profile. Retrieved from United Nations Iraq: http://www.uniraq.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=941&Itemid=4&lang=en
IS increases activity in Iraq during Ramzan, COVID-19 crisis. (2020, May 10). Retrieved May 16, 2020, from Outlook: The News Scroll: https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/is-increases-activity-in-iraq-during-ramzan-covid19-crisis/1829670
AFP. (2020, April 26). Locked-in by virus, Iraq hit with new pandemic; domestic abuse. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from Deccan Herald: https://www.deccanherald.com/international/world-trending/locked-in-by-virus-iraq-hit-with-new-pandemic-domestic-abuse-830002.html
KirkukNow. (2020, May 07). Domestic violence soars in Iraq amid coronavirus lockdown. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from KirkukNow: https://kirkuknow.com/en/news/62165
Loveluck, L., & Salim, M. (2020, May 04). Iraq’s Economy Is Collapsing under the Double Blow of Sinking Oil Prices and Coronavirus Lockdown. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from Washington post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqs-economy-is-collapsing-under-the-double-blow-of-sinking-oil-prices-and-coronavirus-lockdown/2020/05/04/61b26a3e-8897-11ea-80df-d24b35a568ae_story.html
Loveluck, L., & Salim, M. (2020, May 8). ISIS exploits Iraq’s coronavirus lockdown to step up attacks. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2020/05/08/isis-exploits-iraq-coronavirus-lockdown-step-attacks/YKblTzs4QziM3svZ5Ou8zL/story.html
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.