Here is a rarity. A report in the western media on the Iraqi left:
Hundreds of women, men and children, poured from all over Baghdad into a big indoor basketball court. All were waving little red flags, singing and chanting old communist slogans. But the funny thing was, they were happy. The whole atmosphere was entirely unlike any other rally, especially a march I had witnessed two days earlier to commemorate the father of Moqtada al-Sadr, at which thousands of men dressed in black happily whipped themselves with metal chains, while others bashed their skulls with large nasty swords, in front of dozens of chest-beating women shrouded in black from head to toe. Even the armed guards searching people in the entrance to the communist rally were smiling and asking politely: “Comrade, do you mind if I search you?”
In fact, they broke every one of the golden rules of Iraqi political rallies, not only by being merry and having a good time, but by actually allowing women – who made up almost half the audience – to participate.
The atmosphere felt more like a family gathering than a political rally. And in fact it was. Apart from a dozen or so young artists with wavy hair and long leather jackets and red scarves, everyone else was either an old communist in his 60s, or a direct family member.
The jolly atmosphere faded away only when an old communist poet read a poem he wrote in the 60s for a revolutionary who was killed after a failed uprising. Old men started to weep – some for the old comrade, others for the decades they had spent in the dungeons.
“I was 25 when I first heard this poem,” a man in his 60s wearing an old Lenin cap told me. “We used to dream of changing the world. Maybe now we have a future.”
Let’s hope so. One thing we do know for sure is they wouldn’t have had a future if British and other western anti-war so-called communists and so-called socialists had carried the day.
Sorry, I know I keep bringing that up and it is probably very boring for you by now but there is a reason why red flags are now freely waved in Iraq and why old communists can read poems and talk of changing the world instead of staring at the walls of torture chambers.