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UN: Street Protests Escalate in Iraq's Basra Governorate


Protesters raise the Iraqi flag at the gate of the Iranian consulate building before storming and burning it in Basra, 340 miles (550 km) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 7, 2018.

The U.N. human rights office reports street protests over the lack of basic services in Iraq's Basra Governorate are escalating as the government fails to meet the population's rising discontent.

Iraqis living in Basra have many grievances. Since July they have been protesting the absence of basic services, electricity and water shortages, as well as the heavy pollution, and lack of jobs.

The U.N. human rights office says it is worried by the escalation of street protests in recent weeks, which in some cases have been deadly. In the first week of this month, Iraq's Ministry of Health reports at least 11 people were killed in relation to the protests.

Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said this brings the number of people who have died to at least 20 since demonstrations began July 8. Since then, she says more than 300 people have been injured and hundreds of protesters reportedly have been arrested.

She told VOA it is not clear who is to blame for the violence. In some cases, she says the security forces are likely to have used excessive force, but she notes unidentified attackers also have infiltrated the protests with harmful intent.

"So, there were many different parties involved in the violence, which is why we are saying there is a need for independent investigations and accountability. Security forces, at least 52 members of security forces were injured. So, again, clear need for investigations and accountability," she said.

Shamdasani said it is the Government that has the duty to investigate. And, if security forces are found to have been involved in these killings and injuries, she says they need to be held accountable.

The U.N. human rights office urges the Iraqi State to listen to the grievances of their people. It says their economic and social rights must be fully respected and the rule of law must be upheld.

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