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Tue, 28 Jan 2020 01:48 GMT

Iraq Protests Enter Third Week with 13 Dead, Dozens Wounded and Demonstrations in 10 Provinces

Counterterrorism & Security

Ghada Ghaleb

Fri, 08 Nov 2019 21:50 GMT

Protests continued in Iraq on Friday, November 8th and an Iraqi security source said that security forces had cut off and closed most of the main streets in Basra. The Iraqi media quoted him as saying that, "Security forces have intensified procedures in the province of Basra this morning," pointing to "the presence of a large security deployment."

This development comes as Iraqi state television reported that explosives experts had detonated a bomb under a bridge, part of daily protests against the government in the capital, Baghdad. The report gave no further details of the bombing under the Senk bridge over the Tigris River that runs through Baghdad.

Reuters reported on Thursday, November 7th that the demonstrators had set up checkpoints in Tahrir Square in the centre of Baghdad. Security and medical sources told Reuters that six protesters had been killed in the Iraqi capital and more than 100 were injured because security forces were believed to have used live ammunition to disperse protesters.

Protesters in Baghdad cut off access to three main bridges. A large number of protesters gathered at the Martyrs Bridge in central Baghdad and reclosed it hours after it had been opened, a 7D news reporter said.

The demonstrators accused the authorities of firing sound bombs to spread terror in the hearts of citizens and prevent them from going to support the demonstrators in Tahrir Square and the rest of the squares, according to the 7D News reporter.

In the south of Iraq, Iraqi security forces broke up a sit-in outside the Basra governorate building on Thursday increasing the death toll to 10 people and wounding 150 others, according to Sky News. The 7D News reporter said the death toll had risen further after the deaths of two injured people in hospital.

 Iraqiya Channel quoted a spokesperson for the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, as saying that what happened in Basra was caused by what he described as perverted parties using assault weapons against the demonstrators and security forces.

The court investigating the integrity of the Federal Presidency of Basra issued an arrest warrant on Thursday for the former governor of Basra, Majid al-Nasrawi, and other staff in the provincial bureau, according to Agence France-Presse and the Iraqi news agency. A statement issued by the Supreme Judicial Council stated that, "the arrest warrant was issued in accordance with the provisions of Article 340 of the Penal Code for the commission of irregularities in the statements of staff of the Basra Provincial Court on training and development courses for 2014." The statement added that "dispatched employees who are not affiliated to the provincial bureau outside Iraq at the expense of the province of Basra, and disbursed funds for these statements, caused a waste of public money," according to the Iraqi News Agency.

These developments come as mass demonstrations against the government continued for the 13th consecutive day. The cities and provinces of Iraq are witnessing mass demonstrations that have been going on for nearly two weeks to protest against corruption and the deterioration of the economic condition of the country and to demand a change of government.

The Iraqi government has failed to find a way out of its biggest challenge in years. The unrest broke the relative calm that followed the Isis's defeat in 2017.

In a related context, the Baghdad Operations Command issued directives to its members not to shoot at the demonstrators.The commander of Baghdad operations, Lieutenant General Qais al-Mohammadawi, said that many members of the security forces had been detained for violation of the orders, at the same time denying the news circulating about the massacre at the Senk bridge in Baghdad. Al-Mohammadawi revealed the formation of committees to investigate allegations of special gas being used inside the tear gas canisters.

International concern

The United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said in a statement that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is concerned about the high number of deaths and injuries in the ongoing demonstrations in Iraq, especially as it reflects the continued use of live ammunition against demonstrators.

The statement added that Guterres had urged all actors to refrain from violence and to investigate seriously what has happened, calling for a meaningful dialogue between the government and the demonstrators.

The statement described the disruption of vital infrastructure as a matter of serious concern and said protecting public facilities was everyone's responsibility.

Disruption of oil exports and completion of projects

For its part, the Iraqi government said that the continued closure of the port of Umm Qasr in Basra, the main source of Iraq's oil wealth, as a result of the protests caused the suspension of the export of 90 thousand barrels of oil and cost the state millions in loss of income. Also the blockade of transport routes by demonstrators prevented the arrival of about 90 thousand barrels of crude oil destined for export but which were still stuck in a field in northern Iraq on November 7th, an industry source told AFP.

The Qayyara field in the northern province of Nineveh produces 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day, which is trucked to the southern port of Basra for export. But sit-ins on some of the access roads have disrupted exports. The Iraqi government had announced the resumption of operations in the port before the protesters returned to close it off. Security officials also confirmed the resumption of work at the Nasiriyah oil refinery after the protesters left, according to Reuters.

A senior source at the North Oil Company, which runs the Qayyarah field, told AFP on Thursday that the trucks had now been unable to move for the third day in a row.

Iraq is witnessing an anti-government protest movement concentrated in the capital Baghdad and several southern cities. Protesters are staging sit-ins targeting major roads and government infrastructure, including oil fields, in a country that is OPEC's second-largest oil producer.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, said Iraq owes 13 trillion dinars borrowed between 2014 and 2019.

He explained during a speech to the Council of Ministers, broadcast on Iraqi television, that five thousand service projects worth up to about $17 billion had been disrupted in his country during the lifetime of successive governments due to poor planning and management.

Abdul-Mahdi said his government was seeking to develop economic plans that do not rely mainly on oil in the new budget. He pledged funds to meet the protesters' demands.

Middle East