ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Protesters took to the streets on Friday for the second week to respond to accusations by the Iraqi government that they are harboring division, denying the claims and stating the demonstrations were peaceful.
During live coverage of the demonstrations in Basra—the main road to which has been blocked—Kurdistan 24 correspondent Shivan Jabbary spoke with protesters sharing their frustrations with the Iraqi government.
“We are just poor people who have come to demand their rights.”
A protester holding up a banner with a picture of his hospitalized friend who passed away said the man was a father of two and was shot by security forces a week earlier during demonstrations which the demonstrator told Kurdistan 24 were peaceful.
"He had two children. What was his crime?" he cried.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Iraqi Health Ministry Spokesperson Saif Al-Bader put the number of casualties of the protests at 64 with eight deaths. However, demonstrators contended this claim, saying they were at the hundreds.
Protesters lambasted the government’s promises to use “short-term solutions” with “plans to employ” locals and provide electricity after they took to the streets to voice concerns with institutional problems that “still persist.”
The people of Basra “will no longer remain silent.”
“It has been 15 years, and still they haven’t been able to provide us with electricity,” one man says, adding that they were peacefully voicing their concerns, stressing that security forces “are our brothers and we have the utmost respect for them.”
A protester in Basra, one of the warmest provinces in Iraq, standing outside the sweltering heat said: “we only have four hours of electricity, sometimes two.”
The Ministry of Electricity is expected to broker a deal with the Saudi government to purchase electricity after another deal with Iran fell through.
Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 169 (out of 180), on Transparency International’s corruption index.
“Our main demand is to root out corruption,” which is the “cause of all the woes of Iraq,” a man who was part of a gathering in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square told Kurdistan 24 on Friday.
“The Iraqi government has to wake up” and “address the issues of the people,” at “our country lies in ruin,” another man.
The Iraqi government has bolstered its security presence in Baghdad in anticipation of what protest organizers have called a million-man march, Kurdistan 24 correspondent, Soran Kamaran, reported from the capital on Thursday.
Security forces have also arrested protest organizers.
“We have had some irresponsible incidents” during the protests “such as the burning of tires and targeting of public and private property,” Nash’at Mansuri, a member of the Basra Provincial Council stated.
Protesters criticized some Iraqi news agencies for “not covering the protests,” praising Kurdistan 24 for relaying the “voice of the people of Basra” and for being present in the city.
“We want the corrupt to be punished.”
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Shivan Jabbary in Basra and Soran Kamaran in Baghdad)