Protests continue in Iraq over lack of jobs, basic services

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Baghdad, July 16 (IANS) Hundreds of Iraqi demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday in protest over lack of jobs and basic service, police said.

In Dhi Qar province, dozens of protestors gathered around the provincial council building and others attacked offices of al-Hikma, Badr and Fadhiela political parties in the city of Nasriyah, some 375 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Xinhua reported.

The security forces fired in the air to disperse the crowds, and there are reports about several people wounded, a source said.

The demonstrators accused the influential parties of being behind the wide-spread corruption that led to high rates of unemployment and failure in rehabilitation of the country’s electricity, water and other basic services.

The demonstrations continued in Muthanna province as dozens of demonstrators tried to break into the building of the provincial council, while heavy shootout could be heard at the scene.

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Later in the day, the state-run Iraqiya channel confirmed the incident and said that 15 security members were injured when they tried to prevent the demonstrators from breaking into Muthanna’s provincial council, and 27 “trouble makers” were captured by the troops.

Another demonstration occurred in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, some 160 km south of Baghdad, as hundreds of people rallied near the provincial government building. Riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, police said.

The demonstrations also continued in several cities in the provinces of Maysan, Wasit and Basra.

The protests continued for the eighth day despite a series of measures taken by the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi aimed at quelling the street anger.

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The measures included allocating around $3 billion to carry out several major projects for public services, such as electricity and water facilities, in addition to providing thousands of jobs in the government institutions.

Meanwhile, Abadi, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi forces, had issued an order of high alert for the security forces in the central and southern provinces in response to the protests.

On Saturday, Iraq’s National Security Council warned that the ongoing demonstrations over lack of jobs and basic services could be misled to sabotage of institutions and destabilization of state security.

The protests turned violent on Thursday at the entrance of the West Qurna-2 oil field as some protesters shoved the armed guards. A guard opened fire, wounding two protesters.

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On July 8, a protester was killed and three others wounded when local police opened fire at a crowd of demonstrators against rising unemployment at an entrance of an oil field in West Qurna-2, some 80 km north of Basra.

–IANS

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