In Southern Iraq protests have spread over issues of corruption and a failure to provide basic services for people, including electricity and water shortages.
The protests initially erupted in Basra on July 8th, to which security forces cracked down on protestors and killed one person. Following this protests have continued to spread to the eastern province of Diyala and southern city of Nasiriyah. During the protests, demonstrators marched outside the headquarters of political parties across the south and some set fire and tore up political posters.
Protestors say that leaders and public officials, who came to power after the US-led invasion in 2003, have benefited directly from public funds and natural resources, but have left the region with only basic infrastructure.
Iraq vast oil sector accounts for 89 per cent of the state budget and 99 per cent of Iraq’s export revenues but only one per cent of jobs. This has led to devastating levels of unemployment; 10.8 per cent of Iraqis are unemployed whilst youth unemployment is twice this level and 60 per cent of the population are under 24 years old.
Joost Hiltermann from International Crisis Group stated:
“Fifteen years after the change of order in Iraq, it’s the same problem. The central government is unable or unwilling to address problems across the board in Iraq. The corruption is endemic, the government’s inability to deal with it is endemic, and the protests are endemic.”
One protestor told Al Jazeera:
"We are the residents of Basra, not infiltrators. We are simply raising our demands, which are clean water, electricity, basic services and jobs. Our peaceful protests are met with bullets."
Similarly, Saad Jawad, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics has stated:
"If the people don't see concrete improvements in their lives that satisfy their demands - improvements in electricity, employment, services and actions against corrupt officials - they won't stand down."
On Friday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi flew into the city of Basra and announced an investment in housing, schools and services, worth $3bn for the province.
Abadi had also met with security and intelligence chiefs in Baghdad, warning them to be on alert "because terrorists want to exploit any event or dispute".