Iraqi Riot Police Torch Protest Sites, Shoot Demonstrators

Protesters shot while trying to block Basra port

Heavy protests continued in Iraq on Thursday, and reports that officials planned a major crackdown seemed to be coming to pass in at least some areas, with police setting fire to protest camps in the city of Basra, and using live ammunition to shoot protesters.

This is hardly the first time the government has tried live ammunition in an attempt to end protests, and as usual, it seems to have only led to the protesters showing up in greater numbers. Even in Basra, where most of the violence was, demonstrators again were able to close the port.

With major protests pretty much everywhere in Iraq every day, and the only major port closed recently, Iraqi officials are warning of economic woes if the unrest continues. Of course, if Iraqi officials had delivered on promises of reform that ended the first round of protests, there likely never would’ve been a second round, nor another failed attempt to get around reforms with violent crackdowns.

Fridays are almost always the biggest protests in Iraq in any given week, and that looks likely to be the same again this time. It is likely that top clerics will be offering sermons very critical of the crackdowns as well during Friday, in keeping with past calls for restraint.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.