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Basra protester killed by police during unemployment rallies

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Basra, southern Iraq [Twitter]

Date of publication: 8 July, 2018

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One protester was killed and at least five others injured when Iraqi police violently dispersed demonstrations in the southern city of Basra on Sunday.
One protester was killed and at least five others injured when Iraqi police violently dispersed demonstrations in the southern city of Basra on Sunday.

The deceased protester was named on social media as Saad Yaqoub al-Mansouri, with friends and supporters of the protests sharing his image. Locals tweeted saying al-Mansouri and those injured had been shot by police, however these reports are unverified.

Hundreds of Iraqis rallied in the city to protest sky high unemployment, as well as electricity and water shortages which have crippled the city and its two million residents.

Demonstrators' demands, according to a poster circulating on social media, include providing training and job opportunities for young people, clearing up waste and pollution from the oil industry, building more infrastructure and a hospital for the city's cancer patients, and establishing a watchdog council to ensure the oil companies, historically awash with corruption, abide by the law.

Basra's residents have been frequently taking to the streets over the past months as discontent rises along with the sweltering summer temperatures which can reach 50 degrees celsius. Without a steady supply of drinking water and with much agriculture put on hold, conditions are severe.

At least 18 percent of Iraqi youth are unemployed, with rates even higher among college graduates.

According to the UN, Iraq's oil sector accounts for 65 percent of the country's gross domestic product but only one percent of its labour force.

Many internal refugees displaced by IS fled to Basra, untouched by the militant takeover, often finding homes in shanty towns.

Nearly 10 percent of Iraqis live in informal settlements, one fifth of them in Basra, according to the ministry of planning.

On top of this, an unusually bad drought has forced Iraq to suspend the cultivation of rice, corn and other cereals that demand large amounts of water. 

Nicknamed the "land of the two rivers" due to the presence of the Tigris and Euphrates, Iraq has for years seen its water resources decrease.

Beyond this year's dramatic lack of rain, experts say a central reason for Iraq's creeping drought is the regional sharing of its water resources.

Neighbouring Turkey and Iran in recent years have both rerouted cross-border water sources they share with Iraq.

The start in late June of Turkey's controversial Ilisu dam on the Tigris river is expected to bring a new blow to agriculture and livelihoods across the country.

The dam has provoked anger and concern across Iraq's agricultural community and from Iraqi authorities, already facing social unrest over chronic electricity shortages across the country.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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