The third element of this month’s nonviolent protest by the Sadrist Trend – following its two-day public sector strike and Friday hunger strike – is a petition demanding anti-corruption reforms. The aim is to collect a million signatures of Iraqis who declare, “The corrupt in the government do not represent me”. The petition is a tactic that the movement has used in the past and provides insights into the Sadrist Trend’s political strategy.
First, it demonstrates the commitment to nonviolence I discussed in my previous note. Moreso, it shows that the movement’s leaders and organisers have a firm grasp of democratic processes – contrary to some disparaging views of Iraqi politics and the Arab world more broadly – and its members and supporters value these processes enough to line up in the summer heat and sign their names. This was likewise demonstrated more than a decade ago when, in 2005, the movement set out to obtain a million signatures to express opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.
Second, it suggests that the movement seeks international recognition and legitimacy. Sadrists have made remarks suggesting that international observers are overseeing the collection of signatures and that a submission will be made to the United Nations. I haven’t been able to dig into this yet, however it’s consistent with the movement’s recent approach to international engagement. In May, for instance, following the violent repression of a Green Zone protest, Sadrists and other protestors provided witness statements to international human rights bodies and called for international action. Alongside civil activists, they also met with representatives of UN bodies to explain the broader demands of the reform movement and seek support.
The stated aim of the strike action was to demonstrate through symbolic sacrifice the Sadrists’ honesty and commitment to the pro-reform struggle, as a means of appealing to other Iraqis. If indeed the petition is aimed at the UN, this shows that this month’s protests form a well-rounded strategy that is designed to deliver political messages to both domestic and international audiences. Finally, the petition demonstrates once again the ability of the Sadrist Trend to engage large numbers of people and coordinate activities nationally. This in itself is a powerful message.
(Photo courtesy of @AlFayth.)