Monday, November 12, 2018

Protests Return To Iraq’s Basra After Having Failed To Achieve Goals During Summer

Sit in tent outside West Qurna 2 oil field (Al Mirbad)

During the summer Iraq’s annual protests over services and better government turned into riots in Basra. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi responded by sending the security forces and Counter-Terrorism Unit, making promises of future jobs and water, while attempting to discredit the activists. Things eventually calmed down, and the focus returned to Baghdad where new Premier Abdul Mahdi is struggling to put together his new government. Not having achieve anything substantive the protests have quietly restarted in the province.

At the end of October the Human Rights office in Basra warned that people were mobilizing once again to protest over water, electricity and jobs. The provincial police chief tried to play down those comments claiming that gatherings were being postponed, but that proved untrue. That same day, November 1, there was a sit in near the Basra Oil Company marking the return of demonstrations. November 3, people gathered at Abdul Qasim Square in Basra city demanding jobs, an end to the water crisis, services, and for a minister from Basra to be appointed to PM Mahdi’s new cabinet. The next day dozens gathered again outside the Basra Oil Company. Things gained steam with protests every day from November 8 to 11 in Basra city, in the north and around the West Qurna 2 oil field.

For years now, angry, mostly young Iraqis have organized protests during the summer over things like electricity, corruption and poor governance. These fade away as the heat subsides and they gain the same types of empty responses as Premier Abadi offered. This year, things not only got extremely violent with the sacking of political offices, burning of buildings, etc., but they appear to have staying power as the demonstrations have restarted during the winter. They are unlikely to win any substantive concessions as the government is generally unresponsive to the public, and the issues at play like the water crisis would take years to solve. On the other hand, what it does show is growing resolve and anger at the status quo that could be a long term problem for the country if the young become disillusioned with the government. Iraq does not have a good history when that happens.

SOURCES

Al Alam, “Postponement of the demonstrations in Basra because of Mendes members,” 11/1/18

Baghdad Post, “Protests re-erupt in Basra to solve province’s crises,” 11/3/18

Bas News, “Demonstrators Come Back to the Streets in Basra,” 11/8/18

Al Masalah, “Demonstrations in Basra demanding it to be transferred to a region,” 11/9/18

Al Mirbad, “Continued sit-in in front of water injection plan north Basra,” 11/11/18
- “Human Rights Commission: a strong movement to get out demonstrations in Basra to demand their rights,” 10/31/18
- “A sit-in in front of an oil site north Basra to demand appointments and services,” 11/10/18
- “The withdrawal of dozens of protesters from the Basra oil company down the Education Bridge,” 11/4/18
- “Youth sit in at pier of education bridge near Basra Oil Company,” 11/1/18

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