In a further sign of the deteriorating situation of Iraq’s intelligentsia and the country’s steady crumbling of its society and the rule of law, reports have emerged that indicate that violent and largely uneducated Shia extremists are being paid higher salaries than university professors.
The monthly salaries earned by Shia jihadists fighting under the authority of the state-sanctioned but Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), known as the Hashd Al-Sha’abi in Arabic, has ensured the continuation of the militias dominance across Iraq and its ability to draw recruits for higher pay than they would get elsewhere in more intellectually demanding jobs.
An Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, said that the monthly salaries for militiamen had risen to 1,162,000 Iraqi dinars (approximately $1,000). This figure was now higher than what academics earn, leading many to seek a better life abroad and further contributing to Iraq’s brain drain.
The Iraqi government, who officially recognised the PMF as a branch of the armed forces alongside the army, navy and air force, is known for delaying payments to civil servants and other public sector employees. However, Baghdad fears delays in paying the salaries of the pro-Tehran PMF, as the last time that occurred in February, incidents of theft and armed robbery.
Iraq a gangland
Hussam Isa, a leader in the Iraqi Civil Movement in Baghdad, a group of activists seeking to restore civilian control over a country now dominated by sectarian militias, said that it was inconceivable that educated scholars should earn less than uneducated militants.
“There is a sense that the country is run by the militias,” Isa said, adding that he believed that the government was forced to pay the jihadists high salaries because it feared them.
A lecturer at Baghdad University, Ahmad Hassan, mockingly said:
I’m thinking about quitting teaching and instead buying a Kalashnikov rifle before signing up to one of the militias. My salary would be higher, and I’ll have the peace of mind that no one will attack or rob us.
The academic continued: “It’s a shame but we no longer have a place in a country where the scholar is starving, and the ignorant is blessed with bounties.”
Meanwhile, however, the PMF had only harsh words and threats of violence for those who thought that they should not be earning more than more productive members of society.
“The backlash against the salaries of the Hashd was ignited by those who have agendas and don’t want good for Iraq,” Shia cleric and PMF commander Fadhil Al-Hassani said, adding:
We will cut out the tongues of anyone who speaks against them [the Shia militants], whether they are in the media or speaking from platforms belonging to the so-called civil and secular movements.
The cleric continued by saying “it is possible to say that the units of the Hashd are currently the best class in society now, and there are none who equal them in terms of their favours [to Iraq].”