ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces used tear gas, batons, water cannons, and arrests to break up mostly young demonstrators on Thursday in Basra, the southern city that has become best known in the past year as a flashpoint for street protest.
"Five demonstrators were arrested and three others were injured, as well as two officers," read a statement released by the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights in Basra, as reported by local media.
Mass 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, notable among them Basra’s governorate building and Iranian Consulate.
In addition to demands for better employment and services mentioned above, other central issues of the movement have been chronically poor infrastructure and government corruption. Organizers decry the low standard of living in the oil-rich province, the petroleum exports from which account for over 90 percent of the nation’s total revenue.
Though protests slowed in late 2018, they began again in December when crowds began to reiterate their frustrations, continuing to claim that officials were still failing to deliver on promises made during the runup to the last national election in May.
In late January, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi visited Basra to revived protests in the area, his first visit to the city since taking office on Oct. 25, 2018.
The prime minister met with local officials in the province where a dilapidated infrastructure has yet to be upgraded 16 years after the fall of Saddam’s authoritarian regime in 2003.