Iraq Protests Turn Deadly Amid Serious Lack of Water, Electricity
High unemployment rates, drought, and electricity shortages have pushed Iraqis to protest.
Due to poor government services, high unemployment, and drought, people across Iraq have been protesting since July 8, with demonstrations beginning in the southern city of Basra and spreading to the capital Baghdad, according to The Washington Post.
As security forces crack down on the protests, at least eight people have died and dozens more have been injured, according to Al Jazeera.
The protests erupted in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra on Sunday and security forces opened fire, killing a protester and prompting demonstrators to block roads and try to storm government installations #Iraqhttps://t.co/tfSkq56qfD— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 13, 2018
The protests have grown into a broader political statement against Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's political party, the Shiite-dominated Dawa party, which has been in power since 2003. The Dawa party has endured various charges of corruption and flamed sectarian tensions with the country's Sunni population. It's also closely linked to Iran, which has become another target of protest, The Post reports.
Many Iraqis blame the government for not improving the economy or providing jobs or infrastructure since the US invasion destroyed much of the country. Ziad Fadhill, 38, who is unemployed told NBC, “The Dawa party has been running Iraq for 15 years, and its leaders failed to live up to even a single promise they made.”
Conditions have worsened recently because of a severe drought and the Iraqi government's inability to make electricity payments to Iran, forcing people to forgo fans and air conditioning in temperatures that have reached 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
Protestors are demanding jobs and better services. Throughout the country, 10.8% of Iraqis are unemployed, and in a country where 60% of the population is under 24, youth unemployment is twice as high, according to the Express Tribune.
In response to the protests, the Iraqi government has placed its security forces on high alert, and has cut off Internet access to prevent people from organizing on social media apps, according to Bloomberg. In the city of Maysan, Iraqi forces shot at protestors after they attacked the local headquarters of the Dawa party and set it on fire, injuring 15 people and killing one person. Two other civilians were shot dead by Iraqi forces in the incident.
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Pressure and unrest have been building ever since elections in May produced inconclusive results — the ballots are being recounted now following allegations of fraud, the Associated Press reports, and the process is delaying a new parliament and formation of a new government.
Persistent power shortages have caused demonstrations in the past, especially during the hottest months of the year when blackouts become more common, according to The New Yorker.