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Iraq

Maki Yasir remembered: The first to die in Basra’s recent protests

By Mustafa Goran 8/9/2018
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BASRA, Iraq — Maki Yasir, 20, was the first protestor to die in the latest round of protests in Basra. In an exclusive interview, his family explains what happened on September 3 and the conditions facing outraged protestors in Iraq's oil-rich southern province.

Yasir was one of four brothers who lived with his parents in the city.

His brother Ali says that Maki did not allow them to participate in the protests.

"Go home, because you have a spouse but I do not," he recalled his brother often saying.

Ali was first to carry Yasir after he was fatally wounded.

"SWAT forces wanted to attack us instead of helping us, but people established a security perimeter around us. They kept shooting protesters and also targeted us," said Ali.

Maki’s father, Yasir Hussein, described arriving at the hospital moments after learning of the situation.

"The scene was very disturbing, emotional and terrifying. I hope no one experiences it," Hussein said.

He says "hundreds" of other patients — injured in the protests or ill because of a lack of drinkable water — overwhelmed hospital staff.

"Each bed was shared by 3-4," said Hussein.

Lack of basic services has been a primary complaint of protestors.

"When I arrived, Maki had already passed away. No physician reached out to him. There were two physicians and a nurse. They could not provide any help to the hundreds of people who were at the emergency hospital," added Hussein.

Protests began in Iraq's southern provinces in early July. At least five people have been killed in the most recent wave.

They are asking for an end to corruption, more jobs, and better services like clean water, streets, and availability to basic healthcare.

Iraq's new parliament will convene an emergency session on Saturday solely to address the situation in Basra, where political, militia, governmental, and embassy buildings have been torched, and security forces have been accused of using live ammunition to quell the protests.

Iraq is in a fragile political state as it works to build a new government with two distinct camps emerging: one pro-Iran, and the other pro-West.
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