Basra Activists Fear Government Security Crackdown

Basra Activists Fear Government Security Crackdown

Monday, 10 September, 2018 - 10:00
Iraqi security forces stand guard near the building of the government office in Basra, Iraq, Sept. 6, 2018. (Reuters)
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat
Despite calm returning to Iraq’s Basra on Sunday, following a wave of violent demonstrations that saw the torching of the Iranian Consulate and government buildings, there are fears of the possibility of renewed protests.

The popular rallies are expected to become more severe and could lead to a government campaign of arrests targeting prominent social and civil activists.

Addressing the concerns, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued a new security warning, calling on its consular staff in Basra to restrict their movements in the southern city.

“There is fear, and we expect a major campaign of arrests will be launched against prominent us,” said activist Kazim Sahlani.

“But the situation in Basra can not tolerate the harassment of activists,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“We warned authorities, parties and militias to avoid going after activists and to stop directing false accusations against demonstrators in hopes of tarnishing their reputation,” Sahlani said.

State of Law Coalition head Nouri al-Maliki, during a meeting with Russia’s Ambassador to Iraq Maksim Maksimov, hinted at the possibility of prosecuting the demonstrators.

“The developments in Basra were unfortunate, halting sabotage and arson is not enough, but there must be an open, formal and public inquiry to know what the protesters’ motives were,” a statement issued by Maliki’s office said.

In turn, the local head of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, Mahdi al-Tamimi, predicted that the rallies would erupt again if the federal government does not meet its commitments.

However, he ruled out the possibility of the launch of a crackdown against the demonstrators.

“Things are quiet in Basra, there is a heavy security presence, but the curfew has been lifted,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Protesters responded to demands for stop demonstrations in order to give both the local and federal governments an opportunity to fix problems.”

“Time and time again, the government promised to implement protester demands in July, August and once again today,” he said.

“But nothing has happened in Basra so far, and if the government does not stick to its commitments, it will probably lead to disaster,” he added.

He said 15 people were killed and 250 wounded, included 62 military personnel, during the Basra protests in September.

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