Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle In Iraq
By Ali Issa
Collected from dozens of interviews with, and reports from, Iraqi feminists, labor organizers, environmentalists, and protest movement leaders, Against All Oddspresents the unique voices of progressive Iraqis organizing on the ground. Dating back to 2003, with an emphasis on the 2011 upsurge in mobilization and hope as well as the subsequent embattled years, these voices belong to Iraqis asserting themselves as agents against multiple local, regional, and global forces of oppression. As Vijay Prashad notes in the foreword: "Other histories had been possible for Iraq, and indeed might yet be possible. The social basis for the Popular Movement to Save Iraq remains, even if in the shadows. It is the only force that could provide an alternative to the history of blood that stands before Iraq, the nest of bones, the sky of death."
Workers’ justice, gender liberation, anti-imperialism, and global solidarity have been on the agendas of many Iraqi organizations, in contrast to almost all media and scholarly representations—even those that are sympathetic to popular Iraqi struggles. Media and scholarship instead focus on geopolitics, mass violence, and sectarianism to the exclusion of attempts at independent political action and imagination in Iraq. With the legacy of wars since 1980, followed by the brutal sanctions of the 1990s and the 2003 US invasion and occupation, not to mention the recent emergence of the threatening forces of the Islamic State, understanding and acting in solidarity with these struggles is more crucial than ever.
“This timely and important book powerfully challenges the common misconception that post-invasion Iraq simply equates sectarianism, Islamist militancy, and political authoritarianism. Finally we hear voices that are usually sidelined or silenced: voices of people who continue to resist nonviolently and refuse simplistic and polarized positions based on ethnic and sectarian divisions.”
—Nadje Al-Ali, SOAS University of London, and author of Iraqi Women: Untold Stories from 1948 to the Present and co-author of What Kind of Liberation?: Women and Occupation of Iraq
“Against All Odds tells the story no mainstream media told about Iraq during the US occupation: that a widespread popular movement of Iraqis had been demanding the unconditional withdrawal of all occupation forces, calling for an end of sectarianism, demanding an end to security agreements with the occupiers, and becoming increasingly unified as time went on. Issa’s book clearly shows how a home-grown grassroots truly Iraqi movement could well have, and still could, lead to Iraq being governed by Iraqis and the country finally becoming a true democracy.”
—Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq
“As a Palestinian woman who was born and grew up in a war zone, I have been struggling for freedom my entire life.ô€€? The women of Iraq and Palestine have dedicated our lives to the same hopes and dreams. We all stand for social justice, liberation, and self-determination in our countries.”
—Rasmea Odeh, Associate Director of the Arab American Action Network
“With patience and courage, progressive Iraqis have organized against the triumvirate of imperialism, ultra-sectarianism, and authoritarianism currently tearing apart their country and destroying its social fabric. Ali Issa has done a great service by introducing us to their remarkable world. Against All Odds provides an essential corrective to predominant analyses of Iraq, which privilege the forces of oppression and marginalize the voices of hope.”
—Dr Abdel Razzaq Takriti, University of Sheffield and author of Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman
“Ali Issa’s interviews with union organizers and other movement leaders in Iraq are especially valuable in providing first-hand accounts of a time and a place that has been difficult for many to think about in terms other than those of a ‘failed state’ and a ‘shattered society.’ This book is an important reminder that Iraqis rebuild, and they will rebuild again. They have no choice.”
—Sara Pursley, Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows, Princeton University
“Cutting through the noise, Ali Issa brings together artists, labor organizers, feminists, and youth activists struggling to build a new Iraq under the shadow of US occupation, government corruption, and internal opposition. Against All Odds uplifts an array of Iraqi voices and visions, reaffirming the essential fact that a community, a people, a nation aren’t a headline, a statistic, or a 140-character summary.”
—Remi Kanazi, author of the forthcoming collection of poetry, Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up From Brooklyn to Palestine
“I am very grateful for Ali Issa’s new book featuring stories of nonviolent resistance from the grassroots movement of Iraq. Too few have even noticed such a phenomenon emerging from this part of the world in the wake of decades of calamity inflicted on Iraq.”
—Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Ali Issa is the National Field Organizer with War Resisters League. His translations have appeared in Banipal, the PEN World Atlas Blog and Jadaliyya where he is a contributor on Iraqi social movements. He is a member of the Community Funding Committee of the North Star Fund and lives in Brooklyn, New York.