Iran suspends flights to Iraq’s Najaf amid protests

Anadolu Agency – Iran on Saturday suspended flights to Iraq’s southern city of Najaf amid Iraqi protests over unemployment and lack of basic services.  

The move was taken as it was not possible to conduct “safe flights” to Najaf, a spokesman for the Iranian aviation authority, told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

“The flights to the Najaf Airport will start again once the current situation is resolved,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Ali Rustemi, an official of the Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, said a number of Najaf-bound flights were directed to Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Tension has been building on in southern Iraqi provinces over rising unemployment and repeated power outages.

Last week, a demonstrator was killed by security forces during a protest against deteriorating services in Basra.

Roughly 80 percent of Iraq’s overall crude oil exports originate from oilfields in Basra province.

For years, Basra residents have complained that foreign nationals, rather than locals, were being employed by the domestic energy sector.

They also complain of frequent power outages amid summer temperatures that often reach as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

* Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara