Iraq Eyes ‘Free Speech Zones’ in Baghdad

Iraq Eyes ‘Free Speech Zones’ in Baghdad | Officials hope to sequester protesters in soccer stadiums

Protesters took to the streets of Iraq again today, demanding the same reforms that have become common cause across the Arab world. But while most nations have chosen violence or empty promises (both of which the Maliki government has dabbled in) to answer these demands, Iraq is also taking a very American idea.

On Wednesday the government announced a ban on protests in the capital city of Baghdad, saying that street vendors had complained it was hurting business. The answer was to sequester protesters into specially designated free speech zones.

The US began using “free speech areas” to move political dissent away from public view, nominally for security reasons, and became extremely common starting in 2004, when both major party conventions herded protesters into cages that were officially acceptable areas in which to protest.

The notion of doing so in Baghdad was mocked by protesters, who insisted that herding them all into soccer stadiums was absurd. Protesters continued to march in the streets instead, and no reports indicate any protesters showed up at the stadiums.

Which makes the stadium owners happy, as they were concerned that if thousands of protesters were forced to march on a soccer field it would damage the pitch and make future games difficult to play.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of

  • mjbruzzese

    Free speech zones are yet another example of America's export of democratic ideals to the mid-east. Don't ya' think the whole problem in Libya could have been avoided if Gadhafi had latched onto this concept from the outset?

  • Guest_M

    Best part is, their unwillingness to be herded and our acceptance of "designated protest areas" pretty much proves that the land of the free and the home of the brave is less free and less brave then Iraq, since they have the balls to step out of the pretty yellow squares and make life uncomfortable for the politocos.

    • RockyRococo

      That's why "democracy" is tolerated in the US and suppressed in Iraq. Iraqis might actually get the idea that it really is about people having power. Americans have accepted our total submission to authority as a people and a culture.

  • Valerianus

    "Free Speech Zones" = genuine Orwellian doublespeak.

  • paulBass

    just make sure to stay out of that area where the free speech zone overlaps with the free fire zone