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In Iraq, old grievances fuel deadly protests


AFP
BAGHDAD
IN the heat of battle against the Islamic State group, Iraqis united against a common enemy. But just a few months after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the jihadists, social grievances that once simmered on the back burner have boiled over in a series of protests that have spread to several cities.
After erupting in oil-rich Basra province on July 8, unrest has quickly spread, as people have vented their anger over unemployment, high prices, power cuts and a lack of usable water.
From Basra to the capital Baghdad, the question on people's lips has been:"Where is the government?"
That query is made all the more pertinent by the failure of May's elections -- thus far -- to produce a new administration, as a record abstention rate highlighted Iraqis'contempt for their political leaders.
Eight people have been killed during the demonstrations so far, while there has been a brief internet blackout and the authorities claim over 260 security personnel have been wounded.
The protests represent"an explosion of rage at an entire system that has brazenly robbed Iraqis of the chance for a better life,"says Iraq expert Fanar Haddad.
With the jihadists in retreat,"the failings of the Iraqi political classes in all aspects of governance and economic management come into sharper relief,"adds Haddad.
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.

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