Communists march in Baghdad to mark 1958 revolution

Iraq’s Communist Party led a mass march through the center of Baghdad today, commemorating the July 14, 1958, national democratic revolution that ousted the British-installed monarchy.

Streaming through the streets, marchers carried red banners, flags and portraits of Col. Abdul Karim Qasim, who led the 1958 revolt and headed the new government that took its place. Communists and other left and democratic forces played a major role in the revolution and the landmark social and economic reforms that were enacted in its wake under the Qasim government. These included nationalization of Iraq’s oil industry, the most advanced women’s rights legislation in the region, sweeping land reform, expansion and modernization of public education and massive investment in social welfare programs.

Qasim was overthrown on Feb. 8, 1963, by a coup organized by the Baath Party, in which Saddam Hussein played a key role. Qasim was summarily executed the next day. In the ensuing decades, under Saddam Hussein’s leadership, a bloody campaign of repression was unleashed against leaders and members of the Iraqi Communist Party, along with trade unionists, intellectuals, the country’s Kurdish population and others.

Today the Iraqi Communist Party has two members of Parliament and plays an influential role in the nation’s political scene. It draws wide respect for its advocacy of national unity and democracy, and staunchness over decades in fighting for Iraq’s workers and poor.