Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has spoken out against the claims by activists that the government has cataloged protesters involved in the nationwide protests over poor infrastructure services. A statement released by the ministry read that, “The Ministry of Interior, at a time when it denies such allegations flatly and totally, and it and the just Iraqi court elevates itself above these lies, would like to reiterate that security forces will keep protecting every peaceful protest expressive of rights and is far from vandalism and abuse of public and private interests.” The ministry believes that the rumors are being spread in an attempt to create public distrust in the Iraqi security forces. The right to assemble and conduct peaceful protests by Iraqi citizens is protected by the nations constitution.

The Ministry of Interior went on to claim the lies were “an episode of the series of sabotage” intended to provoke further chaos amidst the protests. According to the ministry, a list of dissidents “has never and will never happen.” The rumors began circulating through various social media outlets. The ministry has asked news outlets and social media pages not to perpetuate the rumors saying that, “We renew our call to different outlets to depend on real sources for news and not to propagate untrue news so as not to give the propagators support.” They went on to claim that the government does reserve the ability and right to assume “deterring measures” should any individuals “fabricate information or untrue news.”

The protesting has centered around Iraq‘s southern reaches of Shiite communities, the largest of which are within Basra and began earlier this month. The primary demands of the activists and protesters have been better job opportunities as the nations unemployment skyrockets, as well as improved electrical and water services. Drought and rolling blackouts plague the country as the summer heat has rolled in. A call to end government corruption has also been made, but in a nation of tribalism and family ties, this seems like a silly demand. So far 14 protesters have been killed, and many others have been injured or detained by Iraq‘s security forces. The government has also shut down internet social media services to the public.

Featured image: Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center, departs the Baghdad International Airport, April 18, 2016. | DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz