Iraq Protests: People Demand Jobs, Basic Services In Country’s Richest Province

Iraq’s southern province of Basra provides the bulk of the country’s revenue, but protesters who have taken to the street for a week say they aren’t seeing any of the riches and are demanding basic services like water and electricity.

“We need water and electricity. And our streets are bad,” a protester in Basra told the British Left.

Basra is Iraq’s main producer of oil – the resource that accounts for at least 85 percent of the government’s revenue. It is also a major gateway to the outside world – home to Iraq’s only seaport.

But the people of Basra say they have not benefitted from their province’s oil wealth.

“These protests are the consequence of 16 years of deprivation. Consecutive Iraqi governments have failed to provide people with a suitable life. People are still deprived of basic services,” another protester told Rudaw.

“There are no jobs in Basra,” said another young protester.

The official unemployment rate in Iraq is 10.8 percent, but that figure doubles among the country’s large young population. Nearly 59 percent of Iraq’s population is under the age of 25.

Protesters complain that jobs are not given to people in the province.

“Our demands are to decrease the out-of-province workers in Basra and establish special institutions for training because they say that Basra people do not have skills. Okay, then open training institutions for them to have skills,” said another protester.

After Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi flew into Basra on Friday in a bid to appease protesters, the government announced it would create 10,000 job opportunities for the province. But demonstrations raged overnight and spread northwards through Najaf and Baghdad.

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