Protests have swept cities in the long neglected south, Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim heartland, over electricity outages during the hot Iraqi summer, a lack of jobs and proper government services, and entrenched graft.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi suspended the electricity minister last month and said last week that his government had begun punishing those responsible for poor services in Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city.
But public anger has swelled at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after an inconclusive parliamentary election in May. Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has expressed support for the protests.
On Friday, hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Basra as they tried to break into the provincial government headquarters.
Reporting by Aref Mohammed; writing by Raya Jalabi, editing by Angus MacSwan.