ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Protesters in the southern Iraqi province of Basra again took to the streets on Thursday, blocking roads and threatening to take control of the Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran. They are demanding better access to water, electricity, and jobs.
Some protesters have reportedly begun pitching tents in front of the governor’s office.
Protests have raged in the province for more than a week. On Sunday, Iraqi security forces opened fire on demonstrators with live ammunition, killing one and wounding three.
The Iraqi government held a meeting on Tuesday and discussed several measures to try and improve services in Basra. It has not been enough to quell the protests however.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday his government is overseeing the situation and will address the issues, describing the situation in Basra as “special … because the temperature in Basra is higher than other places.” He added they have “provided Basra with electricity more than its share … but there are attempts to give it a political aspect.”
Basra is one of Iraq’s hottest provinces, yet it suffers constant power outages and water shortages. Temperatures in the province exceeded 50 degrees Celsius on Thursday according to some reports, pushing the public’s patience to the limit.
Shalamcheh is located on the Iranian side of Iran-Iraq border. Safa al-Faraji, a journalist from Basra, told Rudaw by telephone that Shalamcheh has been temporarily closed by its administration.
Iran used to provide 1,200 megawatts to provinces bordering Iraq. However, according to Abadi, “due to the load on electrical grid inside Iran, Iran only provides 5-10 percent of the amount. This has affected us.”
“I personally observe the condition, production and distribution of electricity in Iraq but as you know the temperature degree has increased in Iraq and in southern Iran which borders with Iraq,” said Abadi.
Baghdad sent a delegation to the province to investigate the deadly protests and meet the demands of people, added the Iraqi premier.