The coordination board for peaceful protests and demonstrations in Basra give a press conference, July 16, 2018. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Leaders of the Basra protests, who call themselves the “Coordination Board for Peaceful Protests and Demonstrations in Basra”, held a press conference in the southern oil city on Monday setting out their demands.
The statement comes as the protests, which have spread to eight other Iraqi provinces causing several injuries and fatalities, enter their second week. Baswaris are angry at the lack of water, electricity, and employment despite the vast oil wealth created by the province.
The board told reporters that peaceful protest is the “right of Iraqis”, but denounced vandalism targeting governmental and Hashd al-Shaabi buildings.
“We denounce the targeting of security forces. These are incorrect actions. We are calling on everyone not to allow infiltrators or opportunists to deviate the course of the protests,” the board said.
The board was formed after an agreement by activists and tribal leaders in a bid to preserve the peace, the security situation, and the demands of the people of Basra, the board said.
“Not to give the opportunity to stalkers, opportunists and infiltrators, who want to change the course of the peaceful protests,” it added.
“We, as the coordination board of the peaceful protests, strongly denounce all riots that happened in the Basra province.”
“The ends don’t justify the means. Let us being oppressed not lead to the oppression of others.”
“We also call on security forces to respect the rights of the protestors and protect them, especially the peaceful protests.”
Shiekh Ahmed Ziyarah al-Sari, one of the board members, called on protest leaders in other Iraqi provinces to join the body to “unite efforts” to achieve their rights.
“The sons of the Iraqi people, especially the Basri, have the right to peaceful protest, as stipulated in Article 68 of the Iraqi constitution,” said Sari.
“We also call on the security forces to respect human rights and not to assault protestors.”
“We call on the central government and the local government to meet all the legitimate demands of the protestors.”
The board listed 14 demands:
1. Resolving water and electricity issues, giving solutions based on a timetable.
2. Resolving unemployment, giving priority to the competent sons of Basra in jobs and discharging the foreign workers based on need.
3. Improving services, especially education and health.
4. Ousting the corrupt general directors and heads of security causing deterioration of services and security in Basra.
5. Forming committees to make use of social benefits from foreign companies working on oil fields.
6- Allocating petro-dollars for Basra.
7-Disclosing the budget and resources allocated to the Basra province.
8. We want 50 percent of the revenues from border crossings to be spent on Basra. We want disclosures of previous expenditures of such money.
9. Disclosing the terms of the oil service contracts.
10. To compensate locals of areas where oil fields are located. At least 25 percent of locals of such areas must be employed.
11. Disclosing the social benefits and revenues of the seven companies working in Basra, and allocating a part to cancer patients of Basra.
12. Revenues from Iraq’s oil exports must be disclosed by the Ministry of Oil.
13- Activating arrest warrants against the corrupt officials of Basra.
14. We call on the judiciary and integrity commission to disclose the fate of the desalination plant project and 12 billion for oil wells allocated.
15. Forming government committees to follow up on projects and allocate money to complete them, and to check for ghost projects.
16. Employment opportunities for locals near ports and border crossings.
17. Cancellation of Electricity Privatization project.
Ahead of a meeting with a protest delegation from the holy city of Najaf, which has also seen unrest, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he supports the right to peaceful protest and expression.
“It is our people’s right to demand their rights and improve services, and our duty to meet them and respond to demands that are made in a peaceful manner and isolate the abusers,” Abadi said in a statement published on social media.