Demonstrators block bridge in south Iraqi city

Last Updated: Friday, February 18, 2011 - 16:23

Basra: Protesters calling for the provincial governor to resign blocked a bridge on Friday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, as the drumbeat of demonstrations railing against the government continues across Iraq.

In the wake of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, frustrated Iraqis have staged repeated protests across the country. This week, at least five people were killed after demonstrations in two Iraqi cities turned violent.

About 1,000 people rallied on Friday in Basra, Iraq`s second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, to demand better services from the government, jobs and improved pensions.

They shouted slogans warning that today`s demonstration was peaceful but ones in the future might not be.

"We`re living in miserable conditions, no electricity, dirty muddy streets. We have to make changes. We should not be silent," said one of the protesters, Qais Jabbar. The 32-year-old father of three said despite a college degree, he works as a taxi driver and shares a small house with his three brothers and their families in eastern Baghdad.

Basra is the hub of Iraq`s oil industry and the country has some of the largest oil reserves in the world. But residents complain that little of the oil wealth has trickled down to the city`s inhabitants.

The autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq enjoys more economic success than the rest of the country but that has not stopped protests there. In a demonstration Thursday in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, two people were killed and 47 injured when Kurdish security guards opened fire on protesters demanding political reforms.

Many Kurds complain that the two dominant political parties in the Kurdish region have a stranglehold on jobs and the economy.

President Massoud Barzani vowed to investigate the issue and called for calm.

The protesters were demonstrating outside the headquarters of Barzani`s political party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and began pelting the building with rocks. In a statement late Thursday, the KDP said the private security guards were forced to defend themselves.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, February 18, 2011 - 16:23

comments powered by Disqus