Iraqi security forces in the southern oil-rich province of Basra have started arresting protesters who took part in the week-long demonstrations there to demand more jobs and better services, activists said yesterday.
Protests in the city of Basra, the provincial capital and Iraq's second-largest city, are not unusual in scorching summer weather but they boiled over last Tuesday, when security forces opened fire, killing one person and wounding five.
The government rushed to contain the protests with promises of thousands of jobs, mainly in the oil sector, and an urgent allocation of 3.5 trillion Iraqi dinars ($3 billion) for electricity and water projects. It blamed "infiltrators" for the damages. The arrests started on Sunday night, with police chasing protesters down main roads and alleys following demonstrations in the city of Basra, and also in the countryside and around oil fields, two activists told The Associated Press.
The activists could not give a specific number for those arrested, saying only "hundreds." About 200 protesters gathered at the main entrance to Iraq's Siba natural gas field yesterday, police and energy sources said. The demonstration has not affected operations at Siba, which is run by Kuwait Energy PLC, Siba officials said. Growing anger has put a spotlight on the performance of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is seeking a second term after a May 12 parliamentary election. The political bloc led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr came first in the election, which was tainted by allegations of fraud, after promising to ease hardships and fight corruption.