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The aspirations and disillusionment of Iraq’s youth


Despite their disillusionment with Iraq’s political system, the country’s youth have hope and aspirations for real change.

As Iraq’s political stalemate persists, many observers expect protests will erupt over the country’s worsening socio-economic situation, the increasing effects of climate change – such as heat waves and dust storms – and a lack of political will to change the status quo. The young people who played a crucial role in previous protests have once again been excluded from critical debates.

While Iraq has not witnessed mass protests following early elections in 2021, the protest movement is not dead. Rather, young activists are seeking to establish their own spaces and challenge the system in different ways. ‘The present political elite look at youth as either tools or rivals, not as partners’, stated a participant at a recent Baghdad workshop organized by the Chatham House Iraq Initiative in partnership with Al-Bayan Centre.

About 60 per cent of Iraq’s population is under the age of 25, yet young Iraqis continue to be excluded from political decision-making. Politically sanctioned corruption, where the political elite control state resources, means that state institutions are unable to prepare young people for their future. The political elite have also consistently failed to anticipate or tackle the long-term socio-economic and environmental challenges likely to be inherited by today’s youth.

Faced with these challenges, young Iraqis have taken it upon themselves to ensure that their voices are heard by the political elite through popular pressure, working to increase political awareness, engaging with civil society, and through entrepreneurship.

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