September’s mass protests in Basra shook Iraq’s government all the way to the top—and perhaps mark a new phase in Iraq’s popular politics. In a brief wave of demonstrations, residents of Basra attacked government buildings, militia headquarters, and the Iranian consulate: symbols of the corruption that has kept their city poor, polluted, and starved of public services, despite the fact that it produces most of Iraq’s oil.
Tamer El-Ghobashy covered the protests in Basra, and here discusses why Iraq’s second city reached a breaking point. He also reflects on the decidedly post-sectarian turn in Iraq’s dysfunctional politics. The mostly poor, mostly Shia residents of southern Iraq provided the rank-and-file fighters for the war against the Islamic State. Now, they want to see some improvement in their quality of life. The protests ended incumbent prime minister Haidar al-Abadi’s quest for another term. What impact will they have long-term on Iraq’s appalling governance?
- Tamer El-Ghobashy, Baghdad bureau chief, The Washington Post
- Thanassis Cambanis, senior fellow, The Century Foundation