Summer time is when Iraqis come out to protest a number of ills, the most common being the lack of electricity during the searing heat, other services, and jobs. There have been demonstrations every week recently, and one in Basra province turned deadly as police killed two people.
On July 8, there was a protest in Imam Sadiq near the West Qurna 1 oil field in Basra. People were demanding jobs from the international companies operating there, electricity and water. They blocked a road leading to the oil field, and would not allow workers through. The police then set upon them with batons, leading to rocks being thrown, and then gunfire that killed one immediately and wounding 3 more. One of the latter passed away from his injuries. This brought out more people into the streets as around 200 demanded justice be served for these deaths. One of those that lost their lives belonged to the Bani Mansour tribe, which gave the security forces 12 hours to turn over the perpetrator. The Basra governor and provincial councilmen visited the sheikhs to try to calm them down and assure them the matter would be investigated. This was not the first time this has happened. In previous years police have shot and killed demonstrators as well. It shows bad command of the local security forces as there was no need to use guns.
To make the situation worse, the Basra Operations Command attempted to make an excuse for what happened claiming they were attacked. Basra commander General Jamil al-Shammari issued a statement that there was an armed group, not part of the protesters that blocked the road and started shooting at the police. He went onto say that all the casualties were from this armed group and did not include any demonstrators. People involved in the day’s action denied that story. This was an obvious attempt to defer blame for what happened, and satisfied no one.
More demonstrations can be expected in both southern and northern Iraq as this has been an active summer. There have been people taking to the streets every day for the last week. For instance, on July 4 there was a protest in Zanko in Irbil province over the lack of power and water. The next day, hundreds marched to the provincial council building in Basra city demanding jobs. July 6, there was another large gathering in Khasib, Basra over power outages and salinity that is destroying farmland. July 7, people blocked the main road in Khabat, Irbil over electricity shortages. The same day as the shooting in Basra, there were other demonstrations in Maysan and Wasit over the lack of services and power, with the latter being broken up with tear gas by the local authorities. For years now, people have been taking these types of actions with no real substantive response from the government besides empty promises. It was frustration with this lack of progress that largely contributed to the lowest voter turnout since 2005 in the May national elections as people are becoming disillusioned with politicians that they see as working for themselves rather than the people.
Al Alam, “Unemployed people are demonstrating in Basra to demand jobs,” 7/5/18
Al Forat News, “Death of a second demonstrator from Basra,” 7/8/18
Middle East Monitor, “Iran cuts electricity supplies to Iraq over unpaid bills,” 7/7/18
Al Mirbad, “An angry demonstration in Abu Khasib protesting power outages,” 7/6/18
- “The Bani Mansour tribe gives 12 hours to hand over the murderer of its demonstrator,” 7/8/18
- “Director of Health to Mirbad: Killing and wounding 4 civilians, the outcome of shooting north Basra,” 7/8/18
- “In response to Basra Operations protesters deny the presence of gunmen,” 7/8/18
- “Popular protests over the deterioration of electricity in Maysan and Wasit,” 7/8/18
- “A sit-in in district north of Basra city to protest the killing of a demonstrator,” 7/8/18
NRT, “People In Erbil’s Khabat Protest Shortage Of Electricity,” 7/7/18
- “Residents Of Erbil Neighborhood Protest Scarcity Of Power, Water (Video),” 7/5/18
Reuters, “Iraqi police open fire on protesters near southern oilfields,” 7/8/18
Sotaliraq, “Security forces dispersed protest in Kut by force and injuries,” 7/8/18