Days after Transparency International (TI) published a report in which Iraq was listed among the world’s most corrupt countries, activists in Baghdad are attempting gather a million signatures to protest corruption in Iraq.
In Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index 2015” published on 27 January, Iraq was awarded 16 out of 100 points for transparency, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world. As the organisation says, “Corruption remains a blight around the world. But 2015 was also a year when people again took to the streets to protest corruption.”
A third of the 168 countries on the index registered over 50 points, on a scale of 0-100 with zero being the highest level of corruption and 100 being completely clean. Iraq placed 161st in the report, less corrupt than only seven countries – Libya, Angola, Southern Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.
Denmark was top of the standings for the second year running, while North Korea and Somalia registered the worst performance with eight points each.
In countries such as Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Ghana, activists have been making individual and collective efforts to tackle corruption, spreading a powerful message that Transparency International hopes will encourage others to take action in 2016.
Jose Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International said of the report, “People across the globe sent a strong signal to those in power: it is time to tackle grand corruption. Corruption can be beaten if we work together, citizens must together tell their governments they have had enough.”
In Iraq the activists who protest weekly at Tahrir Square, have begun a campaign to gather a million signatures to combat corruption in state institutions. Organiser Ahmed Abdul-Hussein told Yalla, “Iraq is not the first to gather signatures but it is a global campaign,” adding that he hopes the demonstrations will have an effect in Iraq before long. “Nothing has been implemented, and there is no reform in the reform packages,” said Abdul-Hussein, referring to reform packages supposedly recently implemented by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Kafah Ismail, another participant in the campaign, said, “They are now gathering signatures from those who are unable to participate in the demonstration.” He confirmed that they have “numbers and reports from credible institutions regarding the level of the corrupt.”
In the opinion of Jasim al-Halafi, part of the problem is “the government is based on quotas.” Halafi, another campaign organiser, complained, “The government hasn’t adopted a real economy, which is represented in tourism, agriculture and industry.”
The campaign to gather signatures in not exclusive to Baghdad. Sohad al-Khatib travelled from Najaf to Baghdad to participate in the demonstrations on Friday. He told Yalla, “We are from the province of Najaf, we managed to gather the signatures of one hundred thousand people for the campaign.” He called on the government to “return the wealth of officials abroad.”
(Map text: Interactive map, showing the rating of every country in transparency)
Countries which registered high ratings in the transparency index possess specific basic characteristics including a high level of press freedom and accessibility to information relating to the budget, meaning the public knows where the money comes from and how it is spent. Another common characteristic is that officials have high standards of transparency, and judicial authorities are independent, and do not treat the rich and the poor differently.
At the other end of the index, countries are distinguished by conflicts and war, and do not have settled governments, not to mention the weakness of public institutions such as police and the courts, and the lack of independent media.
Back at the campaign to combat corruption in Baghdad, Kafah Ismail told Yalla, “The campaign has to succeed and there will be no going back from success.”