The Demonstrations in Basra: is it Really for Services?

Dr. Ahmed Rushdi

Senior Forigne Policy Advisor

 The Speaker office, The Iraqi parliament

Basra is a province that located in the south of Iraq, bordered by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to the south, and Iran to the east. It covers an area of 19,070 km2; with a population of less than three million inhabitants who are mostly Shia and the only Iraqi sea (Um Qaser) is presented there.

Oil is the main source of the Iraqi economy, and Iraq has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world, which is estimated about 115 billion barrels, and Basra has the largest oil wealth in Iraq, as statistics indicated that it owns 15 fields out of 77 fields are known, including 10 fields still producing and Waiting for development. The Basra fields contain an oil reserve of more than 65 billion barrels, accounting for 59% of the total Iraqi oil reserves.

What’s happening now in Basra is not new, since 2015 and the people of Basrah always demonstrated to ask for services (electricity, water, etc…) and for employment but of course without any response from the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

This time it looks like its different and the demonstrations may be politically more oriented. Most of the political parties and Militia offices have been attacked and also their supportive media channels including the governmental media channel office in Basra (Al-Iraqia).

Prim Minister Haider Al-ibadi stated, “The destruction of Basra is caused by politicians” referring to his political opponents like Al-Fatah and State of Law lists. The Fatah which is headed by Hadi Al-Ameri (the head of the Bader Militia) said that “it’s the PM responsibility to secure Basra” pointing to the PM decision to withdraw all security forces from the city during the demonstrations and he asked the PM to resign.

Mokta Al-sader (the leader of Saeeron List – the biggest list in the Iraqi Parlimant) asked the new parlimant to be held for an emergency session and only talk about Basra issue and not about the new government, his demand supported by the PM Al-ibadi saying “ I will attend the emergency session with my cabnit ”.

The surprise was the burning of the Iranain Consulate, which happened after less then a week from the beggning of the demonstarations and many sources talking about the withdrew of the Iraqi security forces from the consulate which let the protesters to enter it, sabotage all exsitings and burn it at the end while the street to the American consulate in Basra was heavly guarded.
Moktad Al-sader offered a one-month truce that contain eight conditions and the most important ones are, the demonstrations will be stopped for a month and the corrupted officials will be held accountable during this periode.

The scene in Basra showed to all Iraqis that things in their country cannot be changed unless there will be a strong well from them, so shall we see soon cross-secterian demonstartions in different part of Iraq asking to imrove Iraqis life or it will be politically exploited again?