Dozens of Iraqis on Thursday staged a sit-in in the southern, oil-rich city of Basra to protest the reported death of a protester — and the injury of several others — at the hands of security forces.
Within the past 48 hours, Iraqi security forces forcibly dispersed two demonstrations in Basra — one near the West Qurna 2 Oilfield and another in the city’s Ezz al-Din Salim district.
According to an Iraqi military source, the protest dispersals left at least one demonstrator dead and another 20 in police custody.
Protester Rafed al-Kanaani told Anadolu Agency that protesters had set up tents outside the governor’s office on Wednesday, where they announced the launch of an open-ended sit-in “to protest police heavy-handedness and the government’s apparent unwillingness to meet our demands”.
“Security forces are using teargas and heavy ammunition against unarmed demonstrators,” he said.
Iraq’s state-run Human Rights Commission, meanwhile, has opened an investigation into the recent violence.
In a statement, commission member Fadhil al-Gharrawi said he had received reports of arbitrary arrests being made in Basra, going on to assert that more than 20 protesters had recently been detained.
Popular protests erupted in Iraq’s Shia-majority southern provinces last month and have since spread to capital Baghdad.
Demonstrators demand improved public services, more job opportunities and an end to perceived government corruption.