A leaderless uprising in Iraq seeks to dismantle the current government there. Earlier this fall, demonstrators took to the streets by the tens of thousands. They voiced protest against rampant government corruption, job scarcity, and poor basic services for citizens. Those conditions exist despite Iraq’s vast oil wealth.
The first public demonstration took place October 1-7. Fearing the people were beginning to organize themselves, the Iraqi government had cut internet access.
Without ready communication, people lose power to promote their ideas and actions. Out of that situation, a newspaper claiming to represent the voice of the demonstrators was born.
Every other day, the editor of the underground newspaper sends a top-secret, eight-page document to an anonymous printing house near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. The centrally located plaza has become the hub of the largest grassroots protest movement in Iraq’s modern history.
Working under secrecy, a group of six labors swiftly to publish thousands of copies of the paper called Tuk Tuk. It was named after a symbol of the protest movement, the three-wheeled tuk tuk vehicle. Tuk tuk drivers rush injured protesters, sometimes through sniper fire, from the frontline of demonstrations to medical centers.
The idea to launch the newspaper occurred to the editors after the internet-blocking incident. “We knew it would happen again,” says one. “We needed to be prepared.”
Protesters tried various tactics to stay online to communicate even with the internet cuts. Some purchased foreign SIM cards. They paid roaming rates to access social media and inform others about the latest developments in the protest movement—including where to find food and medicine during shortages. But not everyone can afford those measures. Many of the protesters are youth hailing from poor communities.
Tuk Tuk fills an information void left by mainstream Iraqi media, say the editors. Its current circulation is about 3,000 copies every other day. Masked to remain anonymous, a few individuals hand out the papers fresh off the press.
“There needed to be something to keep everyone informed,” says an editor who hopes to see Tuk Tuk become a daily paper in the near future.
(Protesters share a copy of the Tuk Tuk newspaper while standing next to a tuk tuk vehicle in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq. AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)