Protesters in the Iraqi city of Najaf have stormed the Iranian consulate and burned the building to the ground. The destruction comes after two months of continuous protests in Iraq, during which 350 people have died.
A crowd of protesters lit the building ablaze on Wednesday. Diplomatic staff within managed to escape beforehand, Reuters reported. After attempting to disperse the crowd, authorities in Najaf issued a curfew.
Video footage shared on social media shows protesters cheering as the building went up in flames, smoke spewing out of the walled compound housing the consulate.
Among their many grievances, the protesters claim that Iraq’s government is under the thumb of Tehran. During the past two months, these demonstrators have called for the downfall of Prime Minister Adel Abd-al-Mahdi’s government, blaming the PM for widespread corruption and unemployment.
Government buildings across the country have been torched, and skirmishes between police and protesters have claimed 350 lives. With the security situation deteriorating, six people were killed and another 15 injured on Tuesday, as three explosions rocked Baghdad.
Wednesday’s arson attack is not the first time protesters have targeted the Iranian government’s presence in Iraq. As many as four protesters were killed by Iraqi security forces earlier this month when they stormed Iran’s consulate in the Shia holy city of Karbala. The protesters in Kabala replaced the consulate’s Iranian flag with an Iraqi one, and pelted the building with molotov cocktails, until police dispersed the crowd with gunfire.
Two decades of war – the US invasion, years of sectarian violence, and the emergence of Islamic State – have taken a heavy toll on the economy and infrastructure of Iraq, leaving many people lacking the most basic services. Though the country sits on the world’s fifth-largest proven oil reserves, much of the population lives in poverty.