Before going back to Iraq a year ago, I was very bothered by the idea of Islamists coming to power. After a long suffering at both personal and public levels with one dictatorship in Iraq after another and, after living for 20 years in exile in the world’s most ancient democracy, I have become certain that the best system of governance for Iraq and for the entire world is the democratic one.
Together with this certainty came another one: Islamists are not democratic. Some of them might have tried in the past few years to raise the slogans of democracy, but this is nothing but propaganda.
I have been in close contact with several Islamist parties and several of their leaders whether as part of my job as a journalist or through reading a lot of books and documents about them. Based on both, I have realized that they do not adopt democratic programs and do not follow any democratic principles within their parties. These parties do not even hold elections from bottom to top, one of the most important democratic procedures, and therefore its leaders are also never elected.
Even when they hold elections, they do so in secretive or semi-secretive meetings in an absolute lack of transparency. In most cases, leaders of these parties leave office when they die or when disputes inside the party end with their expulsion and this is enough to prove how undemocratic they are.
But a short time after I returned home, my stance on Islamists’ accession to power has changed and I am now all for it. This is not because I discovered that the Islamists who monopolize power in Iraq, whether Sunnis or Shiites, are democratic. In fact, the exact opposite is true.
Iraqi Islamists, like other factions that opposed Saddam Hussein, presented themselves as the victims of oppression, discrimination, marginalization, exclusion, tyranny, and all those words used to describe the former regime and which it very well deserved. Eight years in power, these parties have become the embodiment of all those traits. Add to this their unprecedented financial, administrative, and political corruption.
From what I understood in coffee houses, public transportation, and public and private gatherings, the majority of Iraqis are frustrated and angry at those Islamist parties who are now looking much worse that the Baath party and its regime.
For most of those people, those parties are the reason for Iraq’s failure and the backwardness from which it is currently suffering. Those parties themselves started to feel that and have consequently toned down their Islamist discourse. Some even tried to rid themselves of the Islamist designation. They have, in addition, been exchanging incriminations as far as the responsibility for this failure is concerned.
A few days ago, the Sadrist Movement announced the results of a survey to measure the popularity of ministers, members of parliament, and members of municipal councils affiliated to it and the result was not really in their favor. I guess if other Islamist parties conduct similar surveys, the results would be even worse.
Islamists are successful on the popular level outside the country, but inside they are an absolute failure. There isn’t one Islamist regime that is successful and there is no better proof than the Islamist Shiite regime in Iran or the Islamist Sunni regime in Sudan. People in both countries are in a much worse state than their parents before the advent of those regimes.
Let Islamists pass. Do not fear their victory in Tunisia or Morocco or Egypt or maybe later in Yemen and Syria. They will not be better than their counterparts in Iraq and before it Iran and Sudan.
Let them turn from victims to tyrants so that we can liberate our countries from the illusion of the oppression of Islamists and build on the ruins of their regimes a new democracy without which there will be no solution to our crippling problems and no way out from this historic impasse.
(Adnan Hussein is an Iraqi writer. This article was first published in all-Jeeran on December 14, 2011 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.)