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The New Arab

Fresh protests in Iraq as death toll rises following security clampdown

Oil-rich Basra province has erupted in protests over corruption and dismal services [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 July, 2018

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Protests continue to rock Iraq over unemployment, high prices, power cuts and a lack of usable water.

Fresh protests hit southern Iraq on the weekend, with medical sources putting the number of demonstrators killed in the two weeks of unrest at 11.

Protests erupted in oil-rich Basra on 8 July and have quickly spread across the country, as young Iraqis vent their anger over unemployment, high prices, power cuts and a lack of usable water.

For more than a week protesters have taken to the streets, questioning how a country that is the second largest producer in the OPEC oil cartel can leave its 38 million citizens so bereft of basic services.  

At least 11 people have been killed, three in each of the cities Basra, Samawah and Najaf, and one in both the cities of Diwaniyah and Karbala, with hundreds more wounded.

The internet was reportedly cut late on Thursday 12 July and signal remains weak across the country with several social media platforms still blocked.

Witnesses have reported peaceful protesters being beaten with batons, cables and plastic hoses in attempts to disperse them. Protesters have accused authorities of deliberately cutting internet access before security forces attack and open fire on them to prevent demonstrators sharing footage of abuses online.

A source in Baghdad told Amnesty International: "When there is no internet, people are being beaten and killed because we can't upload it. Iraqis now know the value of social media. We need it to raise our voice."

"Iraqi authorities must immediately put an end to the torture and other ill-treatment that has included beatings, harassment and intimidation of peaceful protesters by security forces and carry out prompt, independent and impartial investigations to bring all those responsible to justice," said Lynn Maalouf.

"The authorities have a duty to ensure that everyone in the country can exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest without interference."

A number of Middle East airlines - including FlyDubai, Emirates, Royal Jordanian and Oman Air - have cancelled flights to a number of cities in Iraq hit by the unrest.

Abadi vowed on Tuesday allocate funds for water and electricity in Basra, two of the key complaints of disgruntled citizens.

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