09/07/2018, 18.09
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Violence leads to Basra curfew, a situation deemed ‘bad’ by local archbishop

Protesters set fire to the offices of political parties, TV stations and government departments. At least ten people have died so far. Tribal leaders are seeking vengeance for the dead. Unemployment and poor human rights record have contributed to the outbreak. Three mortar rounds hit Baghdad’s Green Zone; no damages or casualties have been reported.

Basra (AsiaNews) – The City of Basra in southern Iraq continues to be the scene of violence. The poor state of infrastructures and shortages in drinking water and electricity are fuelling the protest.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Habib Hormuz Al-Naufali, Chaldean Archbishop of Bassorah of the Chaldeans, said that the situation "is still very bad. Government buildings have been set on fire; yesterday, even the offices of political parties. Protests are taking place at different sites inside and outside the city."

Eyewitnesses have reported seeing fires burn at the offices of the Badr organisation, which has led the fight against the Islamic State group. The headquarters of Firat TV, which is close to the Shia party Ammar al-Hakim, have also been targeted.

"Many tribal leaders are seeking revenge for the death of at least ten young people,” noted the prelate. “The deaths occurred during last week's clashes. Hundreds of wounded and more than 22,000 people have been poisoned [by polluted water] and suffer from various disorders, especially dysentery. Some of them belong to our community."

For some time, a severe water shortage has affected southern Iraq’s largest city. Residents have also been protesting against the poor level of public services, high unemployment – officially 10 per cent, but 60 per cent among young people – and endemic corruption.

At least ten people have died and dozens wounded in recent clashes. About 90 per cent of Iraq’s oil revenues are found in the Basra region, but only 1 per cent of those working in the industry are locals.

In an attempt to stop the spiral of violence, the authorities have imposed a curfew across the city. For its part, the Iraqi Parliament has announced an extraordinary session tomorrow to "discuss problems, solutions and recent developments" in Basra.

Because of the violent protests (23 dead since 8 July), the local Church suspended all cultural activities and catechism to protect the members of the community. The suspension remains in place.

Archbishop Al-Naufali noted that humans are not the only ones suffering. The drought has been bad for vegetation and animals and “things are getting worse by the day”.

The deteriorating state of affairs is compounded by the "lack of work and the absence of basic human rights". In such a situation, "tensions are bound to persist,” he explained. “The fear is that they can grow and spread throughout southern Iraq."

Some people “are speaking on behalf of the demonstrators but lack a strong personality to emerge as protest leaders." This is due in part to the fact that "tribal affiliation prevails here. People tend to follow the leader of their own tribe, or the leaders of the militias. Some people even follow the army."

The situation is very fragmented; there is no one with the necessary charisma to play a unifying role. And “the situation has progressively worsened and pressures from regional and world powers do not help.”

Recently, Baghdad too has seen tensions and violence. This morning, three mortar rounds fell in the Green Zone, the capital’s heavily protected quarter, which contains government ministries and the US embassy.

No one was hurt in the attack and no damage was reported. So far, no one has claimed responsibility. Nevertheless, the rare incident does raise concerns since it occurred in the heavily fortified area.

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