Basra Governor invokes constitutional rights, demands establishment of federal region

Instead of attempting to divide the country, the governor should focus on putting an end to the smuggling of oil and widespread corruption, a tribal leader argued.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Calls for establishing a federal region in the oil-rich Basra province are on the rise despite opposition. 

The Governor of Basra, Asaad al-Eidani, in a televised speech on Monday, stated that the people of Basra demand their rights to be reinstated after having been stolen by Baghdad, and called for the implementation of the Iraqi constitution, allowing the province to establish a federal region. 

Eidani, who was appointed governor four months ago, said that the establishment of a federal region in Basra does not violate the constitution.  

The Basra Provincial Council appointed Eidani to replace Majid al- Nasrawi who stepped down as Governor of Basra and fled to Iran after the Iraqi Integrity Commission began investigating graft allegations against him.

“The central government in Baghdad refrains from delivering Basra’s dues as outlined in the budget law,” he added, stating that the province’s 25 representatives in the Iraqi parliament were working hard to restore the rights of people of Basra in the 2018 budget law. 

Eidani claimed the Iraqi government had deceived Basra’s MPs in 2017, generating a wave of discontent in the south.

The governor warned Baghdad that if Basra’s financial dues were not delivered, they would get it themselves without offering any further details. 

Eidani rejected the presence of any political conflict in his province, notably since he became governor in September, pointing out that the majority of clashes were between local tribes.

The Iraqi government has repeatedly rejected calls by the provinces politicians and parliamentary members to establish a more autonomous federal region in Basra. 

According to the Iraqi Constitution’s article 119, one or more governorates shall have the right to organize into a region based on a formal request to be voted on in a referendum.

In 2008, Wael Abdul Latif, an Independent Islamist MP backed by tribal leaders, submitted a petition to the Electoral Commission of Iraq signed by 34,800 people calling for a referendum to turn Basra into a federal region. 

The request was vehemently rejected by the Shia-led government and a majority of the Shia political parties, with the Sadrist Movement describing the move as “playing with fire.” 

In response to the governor’s call, Mohammed Hamid al-Shammari, the leader of one of the tribes in Basra, opposed what he calls “attempts to separate the people of Basra from Iraq,” stating that Eidani does not represent all of the province’s inhabitants and could not speak on their behalf.

Shammari added that it was better for the governor to tackle tribal clashes, remove people’s access to heavy weaponry, put an end to drug trafficking and the smuggling of oil, and address widespread corruption before making remarks that lead to the division of Iraq.

Oil-rich Iraq ranks 166st out of 176 nations on Transparency International’s Corruption Index.

Recently, fighting between rival Shia tribes over farmland, state construction contracts, and land ownership has worsened, creating instability in southern Iraq which undermines the government’s plans to attract new foreign investment to the oil and gas sector.

The fighting has forced the Iraqi government to dispatch additional military units to Basra in an attempt to prevent tribal clashes. 

Editing by Nadia Riva