By Haydar Karaalp
Ongoing demonstrations in southern Iraq -- which erupted earlier this month and have since spread to the capital -- have reportedly left 14 people dead and more than 700 injured.
After Iran cut the electricity supply to Iraq’s southern Shia-majority Basra province on July 6, Iraqis quickly took the streets to protest high unemployment rates and chronically inadequate public services.
Demanding that local authorities address their grievances, protesters in a number of cases attempted to storm local government buildings, prompting a harsh response from Iraqi security forces.
- 14 killed
Fazil Garrawi, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s human rights committee, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that a total of 14 people had been killed during the protests, while another 742 -- including 470 security personnel -- had been injured.
Footage shared on social media appears to show security forces opening fire on demonstrators, which has only stiffened protesters’ resolve.
Last Friday, security forces in Baghdad tried to disperse protesters using exceptional force.
According to local sources, a number of protesters have also been arrested, with little information available regarding their current whereabouts.
Some local sources have claimed that “dozens” of protesters have been arrested by security forces and armed Shia groups.
- What happened?
Musaab al-Muderis, a spokesman for Iraq’s Electricity Ministry, told Anadolu Agency that on July 6 Iran halted electricity supplies to southern Iraq, disrupting the power flow to Iraq’s Maysan, Dhi Qar, Basra and Najaf provinces.
Even though Tehran considers Iraq an ally, southern Iraq -- including oil-rich Basra and other provinces -- were left without electricity following the power disruption.
The power outages prompted hundreds of people in southern Iraq, where summer temperatures often hit 50 degrees, to take to the streets in protest.
On July 8, two days after the power cut, Basra was rocked by demonstrations, which security forces managed to temporarily suppress by resorting to heavy-handed tactics.
On the same day, demonstrators in Basra converged on the offices of foreign petroleum companies to demand that the latter hire local employees.
On July 13, as the protests spread to other parts of the country, Iranian Energy Minister Riza Erdekaniyan pointed out that Iranian power supplies to Pakistan and Afghanistan had also been suspended.
Erdekaniyan’s assertions, however, did not stop the demonstrations from spreading to capital Baghdad the following day.
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from AnkaraAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.