Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Ghazi Al-Yawar

Sheikh Ghazi Ajeel Al-Yawar was announced yesterday as the first Iraqi President in post Saddam Iraq. I have to say that I have mixed feelings about Yawar. I found it a bit troubling that the head of the state is a tribal figure. Tribalism has been without doubt the most significant problem in Iraq (and the ME) for centuries, one that has been plaguing our urban societies and infecting them with a multitude of social diseases that have proven almost impossible to cure, problems that on the surface may seem to be dissipating from time to time, but which also have a high rate of recurrence . I might be judging the man harshly, since this may not neccessarily apply to him personally, and I'm not denying his expertise and western education, however he will always be regarded as a symbol of our largely tribal society (maybe they were just being realistic?). Shortly after he was announced president, I noticed a few sheikhs following him around wearing the traditional Iraqi tribal dress, which is not a good sign at all.

On the other hand, I perceive that the majority of Iraqis have accepted him as president, even welcomed the decision, of course there will always be naysayers but for the first time in months I feel there is almost a consensus among Iraqis of all backgrounds. Also Yawar is known to have good relations with Kurds, is trusted by the Shia, is respected by other Arab nations, has a clean record, and belongs to a powerful wealthy well-known Iraqi family that leads the Shimmar tribal confederation, one of the largest tribes in Iraq, with both Sunni and Shi'ite clans, and spanning several neighbouring countries (such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey). That may be a unifying factor and one that Iraqis need badly at this moment of their history. After all the presidency is almost a symbolic title.

The cabinet is impressive. We now have 5 female ministers, which is an unprecedented step in the region. Just as Iraq was the first Arab country to have a female minister in 1958, it is now also the first Arab country to grant a larger role for women in the government. I expect a much larger percentage of women in the future National Assembly or parliament. The majority of ministers are independent politically, they are mostly technocrats, and come from all Iraqi social, ethnic, religious, and sectarian backgrounds. Many old players are absent such as Chalabi's INC. Also another interesting observation is that four of the ministers are also tribal figures.

So, perhaps I'm a bit optimistic today? Maybe. But Iraqis need to be optimistic at such a critical moment. There is no use in shrugging your shoulders and saying "I don't care.." anymore. You will be left behind along with the dark forces that insist on killing more Iraqis and disrupting the new changes. I'm confident that the Arab world is now watching Iraq with eyes wide open (or wide shut). Some Iraqis are saying the new government will be just a copy of the GC. It depends. Another problem is that I can already feel that the majority of Iraqis are expecting miracles from this new and young government. Unrealistic expectations tend to create endless problems and frustrations. Just like when the GC was formed, or when the Americans first entered Baghdad and people expected that their decades long problems would be fixed in a week.

***

I returned to the residence from work yesterday and headed, as usual, to the kitchen uncovering the various pots and pans before lunch. One of the doctors hollered to me from the living room where they were all fixated on the tv. "Ghazi Ajeel is the new president" one of them announced. "Whyyyyy?" I almost wailed. "Pachachi apologised, said the other GC members didn't want him to be president" the fundie doctor said. Actually I think Pachachi made a small gamble. I believe he is working for the 2005 elections. "So who's the vice president?" I asked them. "Ibrahim Al-Ja'ffari, and 'roast'.. ". "What 'roast'?" I asked puzzled. "Oh 'roast', you know like 'roast meat'". "I don't care if he is 'roast' or 'steak', but who is he?". "He's a Kurd, from the Kurdish Democrat Party". It turned out later that his name was Rosh Shawis.

I'll be heading back to Baghdad in a few hours.