Mass social unrest leaves Iraq’s oil capital in flames


Mass social unrest leaves Iraq’s oil capital in flames

Bill Van Auken

8 September 2018

Iraq’s southern city of Basra, the country’s oil capital and center of its Shia majority, has seen mass protests that have left many of the buildings housing offices of the government, the main political parties, Shia militias and even the Iranian consulate in flames.

Iraqi security officials announced a curfew Friday across this city of 2 million, warning that anyone found in the streets would be arrested. An earlier attempt to impose such a curfew was rescinded after crowds defied the government and set up blockades across the Basra-Baghdad highway and the main port of Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf, through which flow both Iraqi oil exports and food supplies as well as other goods imported into the country.

At least a dozen protesters have been killed in the course of the demonstrations, many of them victims of live fire by security forces. One demonstrator died Thursday night after being shot in the head with a teargas cannister.

Hundreds have been arrested, with reports that detainees have been routinely tortured. Two lawyers who came forward to represent the arrested demonstrators were assassinated.

Among the buildings torched by demonstrators were the offices of the state-run Iraqiya TV, the headquarters of the ruling Dawa Party, the Supreme Islamic Council and the Badr Organization, all of whose leaders are in Baghdad conducting corrupt, but so-far unsuccessful, attempts to cobble together a new ruling coalition government.

Protesters set fire to the offices of the Shia armed militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, as well as those of the Hikma Movement. They also stormed the house of the acting head of the provincial council.

The attack on the Iranian consulate stemmed at least in part…

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