Rudaw

  In Rudaw 

Protests erupt in Iraq after massive hospital fire highlights mismanagement, corruption

Protests erupted in several Iraqi cities on Sunday evening in response to a massive hospital fire in Baghdad the previous night that many see as a result of the state’s corruption and mismanagement.

Demonstrations took place in the provinces of Baghdad, Dhi Qar, Wasit, Babil, Karbala, Najaf, Muthanna and Basra in solidarity with the victims of the fire that ripped through Ibn al-Khatib Hospital on Saturday night. The incident, which has killed at least 82 people and injured another 110, has been widely blamed on the facility’s storage of oxygen cylinders.

“What happened yesterday was a massacre, and it can happen in any hospital in any governorate in Iraq due to the dilapidated health system, so corrupt local governments must be dismissed first,” Najaf activist Saif al-Mansoori told Rudaw English on Sunday.

Iraq has witnessed a protest movement since October 2019, when citizens mostly in central and southern parts of the country took to the streets calling for improved government services and an end to corruption. Protests have decreased in size and momentum with several coronavirus lockdowns and violent crackdowns.

Demonstrators in several Iraqi provinces have in recent months been calling for the dismissal of local governments.

According to video footage sent to Rudaw English, the demonstrators raised Iraqi flags amid anti-government-corruption chants, demanding the dismissal of Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi, who was suspended Sunday.

“The protests in Wasit are continuing and will continue,” local activist Ammar Sattar told Rudaw English on the phone. “It is likely that there will be an escalation in the next few days, especially with the al-Khatib Hospital incident.”

The Wasit activist said that protesters had given Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi a 45-day deadline to dismiss Wasit Governor Muhammad Jamil al-Mayahi, which ellapsed on Saturday.

The capital is witnessing protests in al-Mudhaffar Square and near al-Zafaraniya General Hospital,  where patients affected by the fire has been moved, along with Ibn al-Khatib Hospital, activist Hussein Jawad confirmed to Rudaw English.