13.05.2021

Iraq is in the grip of protests

On July 16, protesters in southern Iraq took to the streets again. For the ninth consecutive day, protests against the poor state of the public services sector and the development of corruption in the country continue here. Protesters demand an improvement in the quality of public services, electricity and clean water.

The protests began 10 days ago at the initiative of a small group of people in the southern city of Basra. Violence against protesters in Basra, which killed one protester, and the government’s reluctance to meet citizens ’demands added fuel to the fire. Protests spread to other parts of Iraq, including Karbala, Najaf, Nasiria and Amara.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has appointed a special committee, which included 5 ministers and which was supposed to determine the problems of the protesters and satisfy their demands. On July 11, Abadi himself took part in a meeting of the coalition against ISIS, which was held in Brussels.

Returning from Brussels on July 13, the Prime Minister went directly to Basra to communicate directly with the protesters and listen to their demands. He promised to create jobs, to improve the quality of electricity, clean water and other services in the city, allocating funds for these needs to local authorities. In addition, he ordered the disconnection of some of Mosul’s electricity to provide more power to Basrah. However, these measures did not help reduce tension among the protesters.

On July 13, the great Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani expressed solidarity with the protesters, asking them not to damage public buildings.

In most cities, protesters staged sit-ins around government buildings and large oil fields. A sit-down strike has been organized in Basra right on the border with Iran.

On July 15, protesters tried to storm government buildings in Basra, Najaf, Karbala and other southern cities.

Last week, Abadi deployed special counter-terrorism forces to Basra to protect oil fields and oil companies. They were deployed in other southern cities.

At checkpoints located on major roads between the main southern cities, such as Karbala and Najaf, people and vehicles are thoroughly inspected.

On July 15, 2 demonstrators were shot dead by security forces in Es Samava, and several people were injured. In Basra, 2 protesters were injured when Iraqi police shot into the air, trying to disperse the demonstrators. In the oil center of Basra, 48 people were injured. As Major General Tamir al-Khusaini noted, 28 soldiers and members of the security forces were injured.

Last Friday, authorities ordered the Internet to be disconnected to break contacts between protesters. The Internet was returned to most areas in the south of the country only on July 16.

The mood in Iraq extends to Iran. Protesters burn photographs of Iranian leaders, such as Islamic Revolution leader Ruholl Khomeini and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They shout slogans against Iran’s intervention in Iraq and accuse Iran of supporting failed government regimes in Iraq.

Political parties in the government, such as the Dawa party, accused the Ba’ath or IP party of being behind these protests. Some have also accused Saudi Arabia of organizing and financing protests. Many protesters believe these movements support the United States to prepare for the appointment of Major General Najim Abdullah al-Juburi, Commander of Operations in Nineveh, to the post of military governor in Iraq. Juburi was in the United States for several years until 2014, returning to take part in Iraq’s fight against ISIS, with US support.

This whole situation is due to a delay in the formation of the new government. The results of the May 12 election were not approved by the federal court; the victorious coalitions were unable to gain the necessary majority of votes to form a new government. The parliament’s last term ended on June 31, and a new parliament has not yet been formed.

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