Four protesters injured as power cuts spread across Iraq
At least four Iraqis protesting against power cuts were injured on Tuesday night in clashes with security forces in the town of Aziziyah in southern Iraq, as electricity outages continued across the country.
Protests have broken out in several Iraqi cities against the electricity cuts, which are happening amid a searing heatwave across the country, leaving people without access to air conditioning.
The situation has been exacerbated by Iraq’s cash-strapped neighbour Iran stopping its supply of electricity to Iraq as the Iraqi government defaulted on payments to Iran.
In Aziziyah, dozens of people took to the streets angrily calling on the government to restore power to the town.
Security forces tried to disperse the protesters and this led to clashes. The protesters began throwing stones at the security forces, who responded with live fire. At least four people were injured and taken to hospital.
Night-time protests also broke out in the provinces of Muthanna, Maysan, and Basra in southern Iraq, with security forces trying to disperse protesters and clashes also breaking out.
On Monday, Iraqi Electricity Ministry Majid Hantoush announced his resignation.
Protests against power cuts in Iraq have taken place over several years, usually during the summer months when temperatures regularly reach 50 degrees Celsius.
Electricity outages have plagued Iraq for a long time as a result of conflict and war and government corruption.
In October 2019, a major protest movement began across Iraq against poor public services, corruption, and unemployment. The protests were violently suppressed by Iraqi security forces, who killed hundreds of people and injured thousands. They led to the resignation of the government of former Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi.
Dergham Ali, an Iraqi anti-corruption activist, warned that protests could increase and security forces could use more violence to suppress them.
"The protesters are demanding only their most basic rights and security forces are firing on them. The government needs to deal with this chaos and punish those members of the security forces who only know how to speak the language of violence," he told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi previously vowed to protect the right to peaceful protest, after widespread outrage and criticism over the way that Iraqi security forces dealt with anti-government protests in 2019 and 2020.
"The government needs to find quick solutions to the electricity crisis because people are becoming increasingly frustrated and it's impossible to stay silent over this situation. The protests will spread to other provinces if no solution is found," Ali added.