Thursday, July 4, 2019

Summer Is Here And Iraqi Protests Met With Carrots And Sticks Again

June protest in Muthanna (Al Mirbad)


Summer officially began and protests started in Iraq. June 19 for example there were demonstrations in Basra, Muthanna, and Dhi Qar provinces, and on June 21 people came out in Maysan, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Diwaniya, and Basra, plus Moqtada al-Sadr called for his followers to meet in Baghdad. The demands of the activists are the same as usual: better services, an end to corruption and good governance. These protests have occurred over the last several years, and have only grown in intensity because nothing has really changed. Last year the security forces quickly used force leading to several shootings and deaths. That led to riots in Basra city and the sacking of political and Hashd offices, and Iran’s consulate. Already there have been some similar events like the storming of the head of the Basra council’s house.

The government response is similar to what happened last year, a mix of carrots and sticks. After the start of protests the Basra provincial council issued orders to meet the demands of activists, then the governor said that he would provide more jobs and services by July 10, and finally the port of Khor al-Zubayr promised it would hire more people. The Dhi Qar council took similar actions. At the same time, on June 29 riot police fired tear gas to break up people in front of the Basra governor’s house. The next day police fired into the air in Nasiriya after demonstrators tried to set the government building on fire. An activist told Al Mada that masked men were arresting protesters in Basra. Finally, on July 3 the Basra police chief said he would arrest any journalist covering unlicensed demonstrations, which brought immediate criticisms. Already, reporters from Al Sumaria and the BBC were detained in the governorate. Every year the authorities promise that they will respond to the demonstrations, but nothing happens. That’s because they have no real control over the situation. Iraq has a very small private sector with the government being the largest employer. There is simply no way that system can meet the demands for more jobs. Providing electricity has been a struggle since 2003, and requires long term planning and investment. The government has mismanaged the industry and always promises what it can’t deliver. At the start of June, Prime Minister Adil Mahdi claimed that power production had increased to 18,000 megawatts. The problem is Iraq needs 24,000 megawatts during the summer. That’s the reason why force is always used, because the authorities know they can’t temper people’s anger, and containing and breaking up the demonstrations are all they can do. There is the added pressure that the Mahdi government is afraid it will be forced from power if the protests grow violent again like what happened to Prime Minister Haidar Abadi. That is an added incentive to stop the protests before they grow.

SOURCES

AIN, “Angry demonstrations in Maysan and cutting roads,” 6/21/19

Baghdad Post, “Basra police chief vows journalists to jail in case of covering demonstrations in province,” 7/3/19
- “The end of the Tahrir Square demonstration called by the Sadrist movement,” 6/21/19
- “Security forces attack demonstrators in Dhi Qar,” 6/30/19

Al Mada, “Basra Council clings to the paper to win the street and masked kidnappers of protesters,” 7/1/19
- “Electricity and the Speicher crime renewed night demonstration in the province of Dhi Qar,” 6/15/19

Al Masalah, “Fired tear gas during dispersing demonstrators who went to the governor’s house in Basra,” 6/29/19
- “Khor al-Zubayr residents announce an agreement with the port administration on the employment of job seekers,” 6/30/19
- “The protesters withdraw after the governor of Basra promises to implement their demands within 10 days,” 6/30/19
- “Security forces in a state of emergency … News of the attempt of demonstrators to storm the house of al-Basuni in Basra,” 6/28/19

Al Mirbad, “After Baghdad and Muthanna and Dhi Qar, a demonstration in Basra to demnd the completion of the cabinet,” 6/21/19
- “After the statement of the commander of Basra operations … National Union of Journalists invites the commanding general to intervene immediately,” 7/3/19
- “Basra Council issued directives to meet the demands of the demonstrators,” 6/25/19
- “Basra water activists renew their demonstration in front of the government building of Basra,” 6/19/19
- “The Dhi Qar Council creates a committee to follow up the demands of the demonstrators in the reformist district,” 7/1/19
- “Hundreds in Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Diwaniya are demonstrating to demand the completion of the government cabinet,” 6/21/19
- “Preparations for a “major” demonstration in Muthanna to demand improvement of the reality of electricity,” 6/19/19
- “Protest demonstration on the decline in electricity processing rates in the Soulk al-Shuyukh,” 6/19/19

New Sabah, “Minister of Electricity: No problem in production and we need $20 billion,” 6/12/19


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