Zaid Al–Ali, a senior adviser at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said that an increase in large-scale corruption in Iraq has led to severe human rights abuses and violence in the country during a book talk at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies on Thursday.
A constitutional lawyer, Al-Ali is the author of “The Struggle for Iraq’s Future: How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy.” During the event, he focused on the process by which a new constitution was created in Iraq and the effects it has had on the country since.
Al-Ali said the constitution has very few provisions or specific regulations, which allows the current political elites to “create rules as they go, leaving the country to the devices of the politicians.”
Al-Ali, who has advocated for climate change action in Iraq, also talked about the government’s response to environmental disasters in the country. He contributed the lack of government legitimacy in Iraq in part to its response to the increase in temperatures and dust storms throughout the country.
The senior adviser also presented a graph to the audience showing electricity demand and production in Iraq, pointing out the large gap between the two.
“While the temperature increases dramatically in the summers, the electricity production does not, leading to riots and the burning of government buildings during severe heat waves,” he said.
Al-Ali then discussed the issue of dust storms and showed the audience pictures he had taken himself of an orange sky after a storm. According to Al-Ali, these storms can be harmful to physical health and hurt a country economically by shutting down schools, stores, and even the airport for days at a time.
Al-Ali concluded the presentation by arguing that, moving forward, Iraq needs to impose more comprehensive political reforms and address climate change issues by encouraging a revitalization of the agricultural sector.
Audience members said they appreciated hearing about the state of Iraq and the struggles it is facing, particularly from the perspective of someone from the country.
Amal Kabalan, a student at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said she came to the event “to get the perspective of an insider regarding what’s happening in Iraq” and a constitutional lawyer’s perspective on the country’s new constitution.