Date :Sunday, July 15th, 2018 | Time : 16:22 |ID: 66727 | Print

Hundreds of iraqis resumed protest in demand of basic services

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SHAFAQNA- Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets in Basra on Friday in protest of shortage of jobs, electricity, water, and other basic services.

Iraq has placed its security forces on high alert after protest against high unemployment and a lack of basic services in the country’s southern provinces spread to the capital, Baghdad.

On Saturday dozens of protesters rallied in different parts of Basra, including at the West Qurna and Majnoon oil fields west of the city.

Protesters were gathered at Basra’s Umm Qasr port and outside the governor’s office in the centre of the city. A group of demonstrators also staged a brief protest at the Safwan border crossing with neighbouring Kuwait.

On Friday hundreds of people holding Iraqi flags gathered outside the governor’s office in Basra while protests also took place in the provinces of Dhi Qar and Najaf, Alaraby reported.

According to Journal ducame roan, two more demonstrators were killed in southern Iraq, officials said, as protests against unemployment spread on Saturday from the port city of Basra to other parts of the country including Baghdad.

The deaths overnight in Maysan province on the border with Iran brought to three the number of demonstrators killed since the protests erupted Sunday in neighbouring Basra.

It was not clear who killed them but Kanani said there had been “indiscriminate gunfire” in the city. Dozens more have been wounded in the past week, including security forces, according to medical sources.

A spokesman for the Maysan health authorities, Ahmad al-Kanani, said the pair died from gunshot wounds in the provincial capital Amarah.

The demonstrations over unemployment, the rising cost of living and a lack of basic services escalated after a protester was killed by security forces on Sunday in Basra.

In Maysan, several protests were held outside the headquarters of various political parties — including Abadi’s Dawa Party — and some were set on fire, Iraqi media reported.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of Iraqis stormed the airport and halted air traffic in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, extending protests following demonstrations in the southern city of Basra decrying poor government services and corruption.

Iraqi news reaports Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on security forces to show restraint in handling peaceful protests staged near oil fields in the country’s southern provinces.

In a Twitter post, Sadr expressed his rejection of “any attack on oppressed protesters,” referring to hundreds of Iraqi youth who have been staging rallies since last week demanding enhanced services and job.

In his tweet, Sadr expressed hope that peaceful demonstrators would “maintain their country’s public property, which is owned by Iraqi people not by corrupt figures.”

Over the past week, protesters at some southern provinces, including Basra, Najaf, Maysan and Dhi Qar, invaded airports, local councils and main roads protesting poor services and unemployment.

One protester was killed the past week during clashes with security in Basra, prompting Iraqi President Fuad Masum to urge for calm and bring those responsible for the murder of the Iraqi protester to trial as soon as possible.

The president, in his statement, also stressed the protesters’ right to stage rallies and express their opinion freely as long as their protests are practiced in a peaceful manner and not disturbing public order.

He also urged the government bodies to “enter into dialogue with the protesters and listen to their demands,” while warning them of using excessive violence against protesters under any circumstance.

After visiting Basra, the prime minister chaired a security cabinet in Baghdad, his office said in a statement accusing “infiltrators” of feeding on “peaceful protests to attack public and private property”.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was holding talks with officials in the oil-exporting city of Basra to discuss the unrest, a statement from his office said. Abadi flew straight into the city from Brussels where he attended a NATO summit to discuss Daesh (ISIS).

A statement from the premier’s office said Abadi instructed local officials to “solve the issue of the contracts of the security guards … and regularize their legal status.”

“Our forces will take all the necessary measures to counter those people,” the statement said.

In an apparent first step to calm frayed nerves, Abadi ordered local officials to sort out “the legal status” of security guards employed by the Interior Ministry at oil installations.

About 100 protesters demanding jobs and better services from Iraq’s leaders closed access to Umm Qasr commodities port near the southern city of Basra, port employees said.

According to daily star, After nearly a week of demonstrations, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, expressed solidarity with residents, saying they faced an “extreme lack of public services” such as electricity in the suffocating summer heat.

We can only stand with our dear citizens in their demands as we feel their great suffering,” Sistani said through an aide during a Friday sermon heard on live television.

“We will not stop until our demands are met,” said Mohammed Jabbar, 29, an unemployed college graduate. “If they don’t create jobs and improve services such as water and electricity we will close down Basra and oil production.”

Iraq’s government will be hard-pressed to improve life in Basra, a crumbling city once dubbed the “Venice of the Middle East” for its network of canals – the country needs tens of billions of dollars to rebuild after a three-year war with Daesh.

Iraqi politicians cannot afford any serious escalation in Basra as they try to form a coalition government after a May 12 parliamentary election tainted by allegations of fraud.

Basra is one of the few cities in the Middle East without an effective water treatment system. Many of its waterways are stagnant cesspools. State officials blame a public funding crisis caused by years of low oil prices.

People like 34-year-old Nuri Malik, unemployed for ten years, have lost patience. “Unless our demands are met, we will take steps to escalate. We will stop the activities of oil companies and will not allow them to hire foreigners,” Malik said.

Iraq is the second biggest producer of crude in the OPEC oil cartel, with 153 billion barrels of proven reserves. The oil sector accounts for 89 percent of the state budget and 99 percent of Iraq’s export revenues, but only 1 percent of jobs, as the majority of posts are filled by foreigners.

Any potential disruptions to production could severely impact the country’s limping economy. Umm Qasr receives Iraq’s grain, vegetable oils and sugar shipments.

Reinforcement soldiers from both the Counter Terrorism Service and the Army’s Ninth Division have already been dispatched to Basra, where demonstrators gathered for the sixth consecutive day, to help protect the province’s oil fields, security sources told the Reuters.

Officially, 10.8 percent of Iraqis are jobless, while youth unemployment is twice as high in a country where 60 percent of the population are aged under 24.

The unrest comes as Iraq struggles to rebuild after a devastating three-year war against Islamic State group jihadists, and with the country in political limbo following May elections.

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