Anti-Government Protests Turn Violent In Basra, Iraq
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
In the Iraqi city of Basra, a summer of antigovernment protests has turned violent. Demonstrators set fire to buildings. Security forces have used live ammunition. As NPR's Jane Arraf tells us, the anger has turned toward Iraq's neighbor Iran.
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JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: The protests have been going on since July. But they took another turn Friday when young Iraqis stormed the Iranian consulate. Activists posted video of protesters breaking furniture and office equipment in the building before setting it on fire. Crowds shouted Iran out as it burned. Iraqi security forces protecting Iran's diplomatic mission withdrew rather than confront the protesters. Medical officials and activists say at least 10 Iraqis were killed over the past week when security forces used live ammunition to disperse other demonstrations in Basra. The attack on the consulate of Iraq's closest ally puts the Iraqi government in a difficult position. Iraq's foreign ministry said it deeply regretted the actions. Iran said it expected the Iraqi government to find and punish the protesters involved.
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ARRAF: Earlier this week, protesters set fire to the main provincial government building and the offices of the main Iranian-backed militia and political party. Basra airport officials said three rockets hit the airport complex Friday night. They said there were no casualties. Demonstrators blamed the Iraqi government and provincial government leaders for corruption and dysfunction that's left Iraq's second-biggest city without even clean water or steady electricity. A lot of them also blame Iran, which funds and supports militias and political parties that control large parts of the Iraqi south. Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, blamed political leaders and called for a new kind of government that will actually deliver services. Basra is in the heart of Iraq's southern oilfields, and it could've been the richest city in the country. Instead, it's the poorest. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Irbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
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