ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces on Friday used live rounds and tear gas to disperse protesters attempting to storm a local government building in the southern oil-rich city of Basra.
It's the second time in as many weeks that riot police have used force to control crowds gathering on Friday, the most common day for protests in Iraq.
Hundreds of people assembled outside the Basra Provincial Council building throughout the afternoon, decrying government corruption, low employment, and poor public services provided by federal and local governments, as reported by Reuters. The building is the temporary home of the council which replaced the previous one, burned down by protesters in September
Members of the crowd also burned tires to block roads and threw rocks and water bottles at riot police.
As the sun went down, some of the angry demonstrators broke through the main gate of the building’s outer perimeter using a makeshift battering ram and attempted to storm the council headquarters.
Injuries were later reported by local health sources, but the exact number of casualties could not be verified.
On the previous Friday, dozens of residents of all ages amassed in front of the building, calling out anti-corruption chants in unison, followed by riot police shooting live ammunition and tear gas for the first time in the city in weeks.
Mass Iraqi protests began in July in Basra and spread across several southern and central provinces, including the capital of Baghdad. Participants burned down multiple governmental and party offices over the next few months, including the Iranian Consulate General in Basra.
The province's oil export account for over 90 percent of Iraq’s total revenue but it continues to suffer from chronic issues such as shortage of electricity, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and unclean water.
During a session on Thursday, Iraq's parliament questioned the nation's new electricity minister for an extended period of time, quizzing him about what he would do differently than his predecessors.
Iraq remains high on Transparency International’s list of country levels of corruption, fraud, and mismanagement in state institutions, some of the most significant challenges facing the country since the fall of the former regime.
According to the group’s 2017 Corruption Index, Iraq ranks at 166, the tenth most corrupt country out of a total of 176.
Editing by John J. Catherine