Basra Protests Continue for Second Day

Laura Kamienski tkd at kicks4women.com
Mon Aug 11 17:49:58 MDT 2003


Basra Protests Continue for Second Day
      By Pamela Constable
      Washington Post Foreign Service

      Sunday, August 10, 2003

      NAHRAN OMAR, Iraq, Aug. 10 - Violence spread today through the
sweltering southern region surrounding the city of Basra, where protracted
shortages of electricity and gasoline sparked a second day of angry
demonstrations in the country's second city and in surrounding towns and
villages.

      In Basra on Saturday, angry crowds burned a gasoline tanker and threw
stones at British troops stationed in the city, protesting against the
utility shortages that have made life nearly unbearable in heat that 
reaches
up to 125 degrees fahrenheit daily.

      Today, residents in the region said the violence in Basra had
worsened,and that two people had been killed and seven others wounded in
clashes between irate mobs and British troops. They said more tanker trucks
had been stolen at gunpoint and that Iraqi police had fled from other
violent confrontations.

      The reports from Basra could not be confirmed, but in interviews in
long gas station lines and in towns along the highway today, many residents
expressed deep anger at the shortages, which they blamed largely on British
authorities that have occupied the region since coalition forces overthrew
the government of Saddam Hussein in April.

      "We have no fuel, no water, no electricity for days. Children are 
dying
in hospitals," said Tha'ara Amar, 25, a shopkeeper in the city of Amarah,
where residents said a large protest rally had been organized by local
Shiite Muslim leaders Saturday. "Tell the British to give us benzine, and
then we will turn in our guns."

      A businessman named Hussain, 56, said he and other residents had
initially welcomed the British forces but had grown increasingly frustrated
and angry at the lack of services and basic supplies, especially as the
summer heat climbed day by day.

      "In the beginning we were happy. We opened our windows to freedom as
the Americans and the British asked us," said Hussain. "But now we have
nothing, not even our basic necessities. If nothing changes, we are 
ready to
make a lot of chaos."

      Another 50 miles further along the highway to Basra, drivers 
waiting in
an all-day line at a gas station called out angrily as a British military
convoy passed. Many wearing bath towels over the their heads against the
relentless heat, and said they expected to remain in line until Monday.

      In the distance, the intense orange flames and thick smoke from oil
refineries flickered in the air. The Basra region produces much of Iraq's
oil, but the industry was badly damaged in the war against Hussein, and 
most
oil and gas has been imported from Kuwait and other countries since the war.

      The drivers said people in the nearby town of Saleh Casr had forcibly
commandeered a gasoline tanker today en route from Basra and removed the
gas. Some said they wanted the British forces to leave, but others said 
they
wanted them to keep better order and crack down on widespread smuggling of
gasoline and other supplies.

      "We haven't had any electricity since the war. The British 
promised us
everything, and they have given us nothing," said Mukul Sayeed, 52, an
engineer waiting in line. "We were happy when the coalition forces got rid
of a big tyrant, but if they don't help us, we are all going to become like
Fallujah people."

      Fallujah is a town in central Iraq where many residents were 
supporters
of Saddam Hussein, and numerous attacks have occurred against American
troops patrolling the area.

      The growing protests appeared to have been orchestrated, in part, by
Shiite Muslim leaders whose branch of Islam predominates in southern Iraq.
Along the highway to Basra, monuments that once featured portraits of
Hussein have been freshly painted with portraits of senior Shiite leaders.

      Even in this tiny farming village about 50 miles north of Basra,
residents complained angrily about the shortages and about the growing
lawnessness that have accompanied them. One family said their new truck had
been stolen by gunmen this morning.



© : t r u t h o u t 2003
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