Chilcot report evokes angry war memories in Middle East


Commentators in Middle East media have responded angrily to the findings of the Chilcot inquiry that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was premature and based on flawed assessments.

But with the report’s release coinciding with Eid al-Fitr festivities and most media operating below full capacity, reaction has been muted both in traditional and social media.

Some pan-Arab TV stations such as Al-Jazeera gave the story top billing with numerous breaking news captions, live coverage of Sir John Chilcot’s statements and of a protest against former Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

Iran’s state-run rolling news channel IRINN interrupted a news segment to broadcast Prime Minister’s Questions live from the House of Commons, and stressed that the report was published after years of delay.

How did social media users in the region respond to the report’s release?

An Arabic hashtag #Chilcot_Report was used on social media where some users lamented what they described as better days, before the “senseless” war.

Iraqi journalist Othman al-Mokhtar tweeted: “One year before the occupation, Iraq launched an airspace studies centre in Baghdad/Al-Mathanna airport. That centre now is a headquarters for the (Shia) Al-Da’wa (Call) Party where the rituals of wailing and slapping are performed.”

Another Iraqi journalist, Zyaad al-Senjary, tweeted: “Had Blair not been the ruler of the UK and Bush not the ruler of the US, there could have been a country called #Iraq where people were safe and did not suffer from killing and the displacement of millions.”

Saddam Hussein’s daughter, Raghed Saddam Hussein shared a photo on Facebook of her father, who was executed during Eid al-Fitr. She wrote: “Our holidays are holidays of blood and martyrdom. May God bless you, my father.”

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It is “a day 30 million Iraqis and millions more love to see!! Sadly, no law can bring back the dead victims”, tweeted @IraqSurveys.

Calls to punish Tony Blair and former US President George Bush were also expressed.

“After 13 years, the Chilcot Inquiry has said that the invasion of Iraq wasn’t right!!! Shouldn’t you have punished yourselves instead of publishing these hollow dossiers???”, the director of programming at Beirut’s Al-Ghad TV, Akram Khuzam, posted on Facebook.

Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief for Lebanon’s Ra’i al-Yawm, retweeted a widely-circulated image of George Bush and Tony Blair dummies holding money with bloodied hands. In response one Twitter user wrote: “The conclusion: Tony Blair is a devil who laughed at everyone.”

“So Britain is admitting that it was not right to invade Iraq. After what?” said a sarcastic post on Facebook by Abdul Rahman Majid, an Arabic student at Baghdad University.

A Kurdish rights campaigner, @Hevallo, tweeted that the invasion gave Turkey an excuse to commit war crimes against Kurds: “POST #CHILCOT UK MUST STOP ACQUIESCING in WAR CRIMES AGAINST KURDS BY #TURKEY!”.

Arab apology?

Arab leaders also come in for some criticism.

A user who identified himself as an Iraqi journalist tweeted that while Mr Blair and Mr Bush had been condemned by their peoples and history, in his opinion, what was needed was “the apology of Arabs who should try to make up for their sin by liberating Iraq from Safavids [a reference to Shias] and stopping the waterfall of blood”.

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Al-Samarrai Emad, who says he is a Baghdad-based blogger, hopes the report won’t lead to compensation being paid to the Iraqi government, “which consists of militias” as “the remaining Iraqis will also get killed”.

An Algerian journalist tweeted: “It is a good thing that Britain formed the Chilcot committee for the Iraqi war and Blair’s role in it. But who… opened the borders, received the armies and funded the invasion of Iraq?”

One user says the invasion saved Iraq from Syria’s fate. “Those who say #Iraq would be better if #Saddam was still in power, well have a look at #Syria, where a dictator is still in power.#Kurdistan,” a Kurdish user tweeted in English.

Another, Neem al-Zubaydi, who identifies himself as a professor at Kufa University, criticised Al-Jazeera TV for airing live the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the fall of Baghdad in 2003, and allegedly glorifying the late Iraqi president.

Source: BBC

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