2003-04, 15 years since the United States’ Operation Iraqi freedom ended, many in Iraq feel that its brutal dictator Saddam Hussein has gone for a good while others are still nostalgic about his rule.
Iraq became a notorious country under Hussein’s rule, It invaded Iran in 1980 and launched a full-scale war to capture Kuwait only to be defeated by the United States-led alliance in Operation Desert Storm, 1991.
Operation Iraqi Freedom was in many ways a win for the United States, it removed the brutal dictator Hussein and installed a puppet government in Iraq, but their biggest win was the cultural war they fought in Iraq.
Iraq by its distribution has a mixed population of majority Shia Muslims, minority Sunni Muslim and the autonomous Kurds in the northern region of the country.
Saddam himself a Sunni Muslim, emphasised on the betterment of Sunni Muslims at the cost Shia suppression.
Sunni Muslims made up the entire Iraqi army in 2001-02 and also filled the biggest roles in Hussein’s government.
After his fall in 2003 and culmination of the operation Iraqi freedom, Nouri Al-Maliki formed the first elected government which comprised mostly of Shia Muslims who sought revenge from Sunnis who suppressed them during Saddam’s rule.
This war of culture was fought on two grounds, the conventional civil war and insurgency post the operation and the second one as many call it more bloody- the war of culture.
Iraq is an Islamic state and following what Western countries do was completely prohibited in Iraq and still continues to be banned.
The youth during the war were inspired the cool looking American troops, who had western hairstyles, tattoos on their bodies and most of them looked like members of bike gangs.
Post-American withdrawal from Iraq, these Iraqi youth started bodybuilding, played loud music and made their own bike gangs which were completely against the Iraqi clerics.
This freedom was the one they never enjoyed under Saddam Hussein.
Many still say that his fall has destabilised the country but the freedom they now enjoy is far more than what they enjoyed in 2003.
America, also the home of heavy metal music that involves violent music and hard lyrics saw Iraqis creating heavy metal groups such as Dog Faced Corpse, Sodomophilia.
These Iraqi metal music groups were often created in the basement of houses, shops, and shopping districts.
Music playing in Islam is only restricted to vocals, use of instruments is strictly prohibited. These band-boys became the target of government and religious clerics.
End days of Saddam’s rule brought about these bands and Al Maliki’s government tried to suppress them through religious links.
The LGBTQ community of Iraq
A subject of no-discussion in Iraq, the LGBT community in Iraq is completely banned. This was one of the biggest cultural changes brought about by the American invasion, Iraqi LGBTQ community felt empowered.
The United States, ultra-modern, liberal thinking nation’s intervention helped this community find its feet in Iraq but not for long.
Emo Community, the name given to the LGBT community in Iraq is a subject of suppression, killings, and torture.
Iraqis do not believe in the idea of same-sex love and have completely rejected the community.
Post the American withdrawal in 2010, the queer community has faced brutal killings including beheading in public squares, death threats and even killing of the entire family of same-sex love people.
Currently, the LGBTQ community of Iraq gets no assistance from Western NGOs, governments in their mission for equal rights.
American intervention gave them power, the Iraqi government has suppressed them brutally.
The nostalgia of Saddam’s Rule
Those who lived under Saddam’s rule want the rule to come back while those who saw him in his last years want him or any such brutal dictator to stay away.
This is due to a prominent reason for peace and stability. Under Saddam, Iraqis, although suppressed, were living peaceful lives.
They knew that every second car wouldn’t be a car bomb or suicide bomb, American intervention brought about insurgency to protect Iraqi values.
The insurgency leader Muqtada- Al Sadr wanted to restore pure days of Iraq under the grab of American intervention.
He along with his army developed car bombs that were able to blow up market places, shopping areas and city squares, which Americans had liberated.
Currently, Iraq has a record of 1 car bomb blast each day, this number grew on every day margin during ISIS onslaught.
The Iraqi war was also an opportunity for people to make money, British and American businessmen created ADE-615 bomb finders.
These handheld bomb detectors cost $40,000 each and years after the war ended, the Al-Maliki government purchased these bomb detectors.
BBC and others found out an $80 million scam where these bomb finders were not working.
These detectors that work on Ouija board technique, would point towards where the bomb, drugs or ivory is. The antenna of the device that points towards the unwanted substance requires no power source and works on static electricity.
These bomb finders often found at every checkpoint have missed numerous car bombs and other unwanted substances leaving Iraqis vulnerable and helpless.
While many still feel that Iraq has had its freedom, for me it is still far away from realising freedom. 2010-14 was the phase when Iraqis started redeveloping their country, however, the growth of ISIS since 2014, which was in retaliation to Maliki’s Shia appeasement has pulled Iraq back into the days of slow death.
Today Iraq’s second-biggest city and an epicenter of Islamic scholarship, Mosul, is in rubbles, 95% of the entire city is gone and same is the condition of other cities. The United Nations Mine Action team has suggested the next 10 years to declare the city bomb-safe and 10 years after that to redevelop the city.
For those who lost homes during the American intervention in 2003, only to rebuild it again for the next four years in 2010 before ISIS in 2014 rampaged cities and living neighbourhoods.
Is it Really Freedom?