People have been on strike in Basra and Muthana for more than a week and staging protests for more than a month. On Friday 3 August, there were renewed protests in Baghdad and the southern governates of Iraq to the point where the religious authority in Najaf urged the public to continue expressing their anger.
There have been protests in Basra, Baghdad and the southern provinces since July 8th, with people angry at poor services, lack of jobs and widespread corruption. Excessive use of force by the security forces has caused casualties, including among children.
In Baghdad’s Tahrir square, hundreds of protesters gathered on Friday 3 August. Riot control units armed with electric sticks had a strong presence with the main roads leading to the square closed, and strictly controlled access to bridges leading towards government offices and foreign diplomatic missions.
The protesters demanded improvements in public services, some shouting slogans like “No to corruption”, and “Iran out”. They handed in a list of demands to be submitted to the Prime Minister.
In Basra, hundreds of protesters also gathered in front of the governate building on Friday 3 August, declaring a strike on Sunday 5th August and urging the government to meet their demands. Security forces removed tents set up by protestors in front of governments buildings in preparation for the strike.
Protestors in Najaf held banners saying, “we are sick of you” while protestors in Karbela demanded constitutional amendments in addition to improvements to services. There were similar protests in Ze Qar, Dewanya and Muthna.
Ali Al- Sistani, the Iraq based Shia Marja called for the continuation of the protests, describing it as the only way to grab the people’s rights.
Ahmed Safi, the representative of the Shia Marja said in a speech on Friday, “anger can be expressed positively, … entitlements are taken, not granted”.
He said the Prime Minister, Hayder Abadi had 30 days to end the struggle of the protesters.
The spokesperson of Mehdi Ahmed Al-Sumaidaie, Sunni’s grand Mufti in Iraq, said they will also join the protests if “the struggle of the protesters demanding better services and ending corruption did not end”.
He said, “Al-Sumaidaie urged the Prime Minister, Haider Al Abadi to end the struggle of the protesters within 30 days, otherwise Muftis will take part in the protests”.
He added, “Mufti has called on all protesters not to allow their cause to be undermined by vandals and the promoters of political agendas and those who want to incite chaos and do not respect the law”.