Prime Minister Abadi issues call for arrests as 24-hour sit-in ends but protesters vow to return if demands are not met.
Could a couch bring down the Iraqi government? That’s what Iraqis fed up with their leaders are hoping for as they vent their anger through sarcasm on social media.
It comes after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Speaker of the Parliament Salim al-Jabouri issued two separate statements accusing anti-government protesters who stormed parliament on Saturday of insulting the pride of the state.
The statements were accompanied by a picture of each of them standing in front of a white sofa stained with blood, both looking grave.
The hashtag #My_Couch_Is_My_Pride is being used to deride the pair, with thousands of tweets and Facebook posts of people looking at their couches disappointedly.
Hasanain Ali is one of them. “Countless people died through the 13 years of violence in the ‘new Iraq’ and we didn’t see a single politician with such a sad expression as we saw on the PM’s face in front of the holy couch. It is a very sad thing indeed to see the only person who we hoped can make a change let you down like that,” he said.
Prominent figures in Iraq such as the renowned conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, Karim Wasfi, posted a meme of himself playing the cello in front of the sofa. He became famous in May last year when videos of him playing at a bomb site in Baghdad circulated online.
— Lamassu (@Iracheno) May 4, 2016
Ahmed Habib, editor of the online Iraqi diaspora magazine ShakoMako.net, told Al Jazeera the response to the political crisis was typically Iraqi.
“Their outlook on the country’s state of affairs has always been a mix of sharp analysis and an unlimited supply of sarcasm to make sense of the huge scale of the calamities that have beset them. Therefore, it was no surprise that a picture of the PM commiserating the loss of a couch in the parliament – at a time when every single aspect of the country has collapsed – garnered such a witty and angry response.”
It’s not only photographs of couches that are being shared; this family sang a traditional southern Iraqi funeral song to their sofa.
Others drew cartoons, paintings or even penned odes to the couch, turning it into a metaphor for their frustration with the ongoing violence.
On Saturday, hundreds of protesters pulled down and climbed over concrete blast walls, to get inside Baghdad’s Green Zone. They then stormed the parliament and attacked several politicians, as well as the white couch.
#My_Couch_Is_My_Pride poses a huge PR problem for Abadi and Jabouri, who are already widely derided by their people and media.