ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Hundreds of protesters continue to take to the streets to renew their ongoing public outcry against chronic corruption, lack of basic public services, and unemployment in the southern, oil-rich province of Basra.
An angry crowd gathered in front of the governorate building which houses the local provincial council on Thursday, but riot police and other security forces present had cordoned it off as a precaution following the destruction of the previous office last year.
In deadly protests that reached a climax in September and which have returned intermittently, demonstrators burned Basra's then-governorate building, as well as multiple other government buildings, party offices, and the Iranian consulate.
Activist Ahmed al-Basri told Asharq Al-Awsat that protesters were calling for the resignation of the local government because they are “incapable or heedless of the people’s demands,” to improve the poor standard of living for the residents of Basra, where most of oil that funds the national budget originates.
Al-Basri added that they would return on Sunday and continue to demonstrate as long as their demands are not addressed.
On May 27, protesters gathered in front of the Basra Oil Company as they chanted national songs, waved the Iraqi flag, and shouted slogans condemning the parties governing their city.
Two weeks earlier, at least four people were killed and 17 more injured during a violent, anti-corruption protest in the city of Najaf.
The protests are a returning challenge for the federal government of Iraq, this time headed by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who promised to address the situation in Basra and combat corruption plaguing the country.
Successive Iraqi federal governments have not been able to put an end to corruption as the current government struggles to end the mismanagement of public funds while facing strong resistance from within its own institutions.
Iraq has one of the world’s largest oil reserves and is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
The embattled Middle Eastern nation, however, continues to rank high on Transparency International’s list for corruption, fraud, and mismanagement of state institutions, some of the most significant challenges facing the country since the fall of the former regime in 2003.