Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle In Iraq

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Collected from dozens of interviews with, and reports from, Iraqi feminists, labor organizers, environmentalists, and protest movement leaders, Against All Odds presents the unique voices of progressive Iraqi 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. 

Author's Info

Ali Issa is the National Field Organizer with War Resisters League, where he is co-coordinator of a campaign to end police militarization. He is originally from Iowa and holds a Master's in Arabic Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. His literary 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, a foundation that provides grants to grassroots community groups. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Co-Publisher's Description


War Resisters League, a national organization with members throughout the United States, has been resisting militarism and war since 1923. Today, as one of the leading radical voices in the antiwar movement, WRL builds solidarity across movements and borders, produces counter-military recruitment materials, creates resources for educators and grassroots organizers, and provides training for nonviolent direct action. WRL organizes campaigns against war and militarism, focusing on connections between and within struggles for peace and liberation. 

War Resisters League affirms that all war is a crime against humanity and works for the removal of the causes of war, including racism, sexism, and all forms of human exploitation. 

Join WRL or find out more about our programs and campaigns at:








“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. 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

Table of Contents

Foreword by Vijay Prashad 




1. Defying Iraq’s Police State

2. Occupying the Bases  

3. Protests Continue

4. Mosul Sit-in Grows Amid Violent Crackdowns

5. Maliki Runs Out of Days

6. Thurgham al-Zaidi Freed and Vows to Continue Protest

7. Exoneration, Electricity, and the Movement on Television

8. “Any Nation That Stands Against Its Oppressor”: Iraq-Syria Solidarity

9. On the Kidnapping and Torture of Aya Al Lamie

10. Message of Solidarity to Occupy Wall Street from the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq

11. The “Friday of Occupation’s Defeat”: Celebration, Vigilance, and a New Front

12. On the Recent Events in Mosul and Other Cities in Iraq, by Falah Alwan


13. Iraq After Maliki’s “100 Days”: An Interview with Uday al-Zaidi

14. On the Ground in Basra: An Interview with Hashmeya Muhsin al-Saadawi

15. The Unfinished Story of Iraq’s Oil Law: An Interview with Greg Muttitt

16. Tipping Toward Iraq’s Squares: An Interview with Falah Alwan

17. The Iraq That Is Not There: An Interview with Ahmed Habib 

18. The Save the Tigris and Marshes Campaign: An Interview with Nadia al-Baghdadi

19. The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq Now: Interview with Jannat Alghezzi, OWFI’s Media Director

20. The Struggle for Justice in Iraqi Kurdistan: An Interview with Akram Nadir


Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III


About Tadween Publishing and War Resisters League


April 9th Iraq Protest” (2011) by Ethan Heitner

“Strength in the Face of Fighter Jets” (2013) by Nidal El Khairy

“Harbiyya” (2012) by Ali Eyal

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