Iraq: Protesters burn government buildings in Basra

Protesters in Basra, Iraq, attacked government buildings on Thursday, escalating protests against government corruption and lack of basic services.

Iraqi protesters gather outside a government building in Basra, Iraq, on Wednesday. Protests against corruption and poor government services have swept most of the Iraqi southern provinces since June. Photo by Haider Al-Assadee/EPA-EFE
Iraqi protesters gather outside a government building in Basra, Iraq, on Wednesday. Protests against corruption and poor government services have swept most of the Iraqi southern provinces since June. Photo by Haider Al-Assadee/EPA-EFE

A state TV building was one of several government buildings that protesters burned down, the BBC reported. While protests have rocked the southern part of Iraq since June, the arson attacks marked the fourth straight day of violent protests in the Iraqi city, which have claimed at least six lives this week.

“The youth of Basra are not on streets for nothing. They are here for their demands such as water and electricity,” one protester said, according to Rudaw. “They [officials] give promises and say that they will implement them. These are all graduates who have not been employed at all … Let people see us. The government is hurting us.”

The European Union issued a statement urging Iraqi security forces to show “maximum restraint” and protesters to keep protests peaceful.

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The protests come at a time when the Iraqi government is in transition after inconclusive parliamentary elections in May that have left basic services in the war-torn country difficult to administer.

Protester deaths in recent days have caught the attention of international organizations. Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq Ján Kubiš on Wednesday urged the government to assume its duties and provide needed services, such as water and electricity, as well as the “longer-term goal of job creation and life in dignity.”

“Long-term stability and improved economic performance go hand-in-hand, and tackling these challenges rests with the political leaders uniting and working together in the national interest,” Kubiš said.

ByRay Downs