Activists say powerful Iranian-backed militias that control Iraq’s oil capital of Basra have waged a campaign of intimidation and arbitrary arrests to silence protests aimed at poor government services and Tehran’s outsized influence in the region.

In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 photo, Hajar Youssif, an Iraqi activist and volunteer medic, who was kidnapped, beaten and threatened for attending protests, hands out masks to help protect against tear gas as protesters gather for a demonstration, in Basra, Iraq. Activists say powerful Iranian-backed militias that control Iraq’s oil capital of Basra have waged a campaign of intimidation and arbitrary arrests to silence protests aimed at poor government services and Tehran’s outsized influence in the region. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 photo, Hajar Youssif, an Iraqi activist and volunteer medic, who was kidnapped, beaten and threatened for attending protests, sits with protesters in Basra, Iraq. Youssif said the beating left her shaken and that threats continue, but she won’t be deterred. Activists say powerful Iranian-backed militias that control Iraq’s oil capital of Basra have waged a campaign of intimidation and arbitrary arrests to silence protests aimed at poor government services and Tehran’s outsized influence in the region. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

Some protesters say they have been beaten or threatened. One militia leader denies orders for a clampdown were given, but another says the groups seek revenge for protesters’ attacks on militia headquarters and the local Iranian consulate.

In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 photo, Hajar Youssif, an Iraqi activist and volunteer medic, who was kidnapped, beaten and threatened for attending protests, stands by to support protesters, in Basra, Iraq. Activists say powerful Iranian-backed militias that control Iraq’s oil capital of Basra have waged a campaign of intimidation and arbitrary arrests to silence protests aimed at poor government services and Tehran’s outsized influence in the region. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
In this Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018 photo, Hajar Youssif, an Iraqi activist and volunteer medic, who was kidnapped, beaten and threatened for attending protests, sits with protesters in Basra, Iraq. Youssif said the beating left her shaken and that threats continue, but she won’t be deterred. Activists say powerful Iranian-backed militias that control Iraq’s oil capital of Basra have waged a campaign of intimidation and arbitrary arrests to silence protests aimed at poor government services and Tehran’s outsized influence in the region. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

Angry Basra residents have repeatedly taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest failing government services, including water contamination that sent thousands to hospitals.

Source: The Associated Press

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