Voices from the Arab press: 700 Iraqi suicides in one year

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 IN BASRA, Iraq. (photo credit: HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via GETTY IMAGES)
IN BASRA, Iraq.
(photo credit: HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via GETTY IMAGES)

700 IRAQI SUICIDES IN ONE YEAR

Al Mada, Iraq, November 9

Over 700 suicides have taken place in Iraq in the past year. We must “congratulate” our politicians for this dubious milestone, which joins a long list of “achievements” they’ve secured for our nation over the past decade, including the loss of Iraq’s wealth, through the fall of Mosul, to the draining of public funds. 

The most tragic thing about these deaths is that those who committed suicide chose to take their lives for sins they did not commit. The truth is that the government has failed them: it limited their freedom, restricted their ability to breathe, denied them employment and education opportunities, and left them with no hope for a better future. 

Most of those who killed themselves are women, especially the young. Like thousands of other women across our country, they have been struggling with unemployment, depression and limited opportunities. Many developed chronic illnesses like schizophrenia, while others began using drugs. They found themselves living in an open-air prison. 

 Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Kherson, Ukraine November 14, 2022 (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS) Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Kherson, Ukraine November 14, 2022 (credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

Instead of carefully analyzing the sources and repercussions of this dangerous phenomenon, our failed government took a futile approach to deal with this crisis. First, it promoted religious fatwas (verdicts) prohibiting and criminalizing suicide, thereby assigning shame and blame to the suffering individual, who is the chief victim. Second, it tasked the police and security services with dealing with the issue, thereby eliminating any compassion and mercy from the equation. 

Young people around Iraq are discontent with what is happening to them. They are forced to fight systematic, deliberate policies that limit their prospects for a better future. These 700 souls who lost their lives may very well have been alive today if it weren’t for the government’s refusal to address the economic and social crises that have plagued Iraq. – Abdel Moneim Al-Asam 

THE WEST REFUSES TO HEED ARAB WARNINGS

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, November 10

Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, most of Arab countries, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have taken a clear position of neutrality. This is positive neutrality that paves the way for communication and negotiations with all actors in the global arena. 

The goal of taking such a stance was to bring an end to this bloody conflict, reach a peaceful settlement, and mitigate, as much as possible, the war’s negative effects on the global economy. Consequently, Prince Mohammed bin Salman succeeded in playing a key role in releasing prisoners of war, including Americans, from Russian captivity. 

In recent developments, Ukrainian and Western officials accused Russia of using Iranian weapons on the battlefield. Chief among these are the Shahed 136 exploding drones, which have been used to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure such as electricity production plants and fuel tanks. 

Moscow refused to comment on this allegation. However, Russia clearly will use whatever means are available at its disposal, including Iranian-produced weapons, against Ukraine. This is especially true, considering the extensive military support for Ukraine from Western countries.

As for Iran, the mullahs initially denied these Ukrainian accusations. However, after realizing that their lies were no longer convincing anyone, the Iranian Foreign Ministry admitted that Tehran supplied Moscow with these drones before the war. This means that Iran is indirectly involved in this conflict. 

Regardless of the details of the Russian war in Ukraine, and regardless of our position on it, what the Arab countries warned of has been fulfilled when the terrorist Houthi militia used these same drones to attack civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Gulf countries warned time and again that Iran was sending ballistic missiles and advanced weapon systems to various terrorist groups – not merely to threaten Gulf targets, but to undermine international security. 

Multiple pleas were made for the West to act. But the West remained deaf to these warnings, as usual, and considered the events happening in the Middle East as ones unfolding in isolation from other world events. Ignoring Iran’s military activity in the Gulf inevitably led to that same military activity reaching Europe’s backyard. If only those in power had listened. – Rami Caliph Al-Ali 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.

WHEN AMERICA IS FORCED TO CURB ZELENSKY’S ENTHUSIASM

An-Nahar, Lebanon, November 11

The enthusiasm – or perhaps arrogance – of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reached an unprecedented level. He went so far as to raise his preconditions for a ceasefire to an unequivocal refusal to negotiate with Moscow so long as President Vladimir Putin is in power. 

But the administration of President Joe Biden quickly put Zelensky in his place. This explains the story revealed by The Washington Post last week, according to which US officials recently urged the Ukrainian president to prove his seriousness about a negotiated settlement with Russia, to allay fears of some Western countries that the war will turn into a long-term conflict. 

These unrealistic Ukrainian conditions clearly did not appeal to the Biden administration, which fears that the Kremlin may believe Zelensky is saying what the Americans don’t want to say out loud. As much as the Ukrainian president’s words are worrying Moscow, they are worrying European leaders, as well. European states aren’t ready to extend their support for Ukraine beyond the demand to expel Russian forces from Ukraine and return to the pre-February 24 borders. 

Countries such as France, Germany and Italy, which are suffering heavy consequences because of the war, especially in terms of energy and inflation, are interested in reaching a ceasefire as quickly as possible. There are even politicians in the US who want a quick end to the war, without getting into the question of political change within Russia. 

Even when Biden had a slip of the tongue during his visit to Poland a few months ago, saying that a man like Putin “could not remain in power,” the White House quickly issued clarifications in this regard. Apart from Poland and the Baltic states, the European countries do not show enthusiasm for war although they provide a lot of military and economic aid to Ukraine. 

These countries don’t dare raise their voices by explicitly calling for a political solution to the crisis, on the grounds that Kyiv will consider this insulting and immoral. But when Washington, which bears the bulk of the military and economic aid to Ukraine, asks Zelensky to lower his terms and show his interest in reaching a negotiated settlement, Ukraine must oblige.

When US officials talk about compromise, it’s because they also know that a long-lasting conflict will cost them more arms and money. There are also dangers of the conflict expanding and turning into a global war between nuclear-armed superpowers. 

It is no secret that there is a real American fear that a long conflict will one day reveal a crack in the wall of transatlantic unity, which proved strong immediately after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

As the war approaches its 10th month, signs of cracks are beginning to emerge. The French-German verbal skirmishes are the best evidence that Europe may not be able to withstand the war for much longer in the face of the expected economic disasters brought about by the energy crisis. The long war may very well reshape Europe politically and economically for the first time since World War II. 

Is America ready to risk this or to undermine the unified Western position on Russia? Only time will tell. – Sameeh Saab

THE ARAB WORLD AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, November 12

Climate change is an issue that affects all of us. But those most affected are the poorest populations in the world. I’d like to discuss the way in which this crisis has been handled in the Arab world – it first treated the crisis like a joke but in recent years has finally started paying serious attention to the topic. 

Egypt is leading these efforts. Most notably, Egypt recently hosted the COP27 Climate Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, bringing together representatives, delegations and world leaders from dozens of countries to discuss the issue. The next summit, COP28, is scheduled to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates next year. Both gatherings are bringing the issue of climate change closer to home and are helping raise awareness of the problem of climate change as it pertains to the Middle East. 

The Arab public must understand that the climate issue is closely related to the conditions in which we live; conditions that are getting harsher each year. The climate issue is not an elitist issue, as was previously claimed, because the repercussions of climate change and the rise of temperatures on the planet affect all the inhabitants of the earth without exception. 

These repercussions, such as drought, floods, sea-level rise, and severe heat waves, will not affect one class of people while skipping over another. Global warming directly leads to environmental degradation, natural disasters, food and water insecurity, economic disruption, conflicts and even terrorism. 

The UN has warned of these repercussions that may affect the world at large, and the Middle East in particular. Indeed, some would claim that we’re on the brink of the abyss. – Abdul Latif Al-Manawi 

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.