Iraq protesters demand electricity, jobs

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 8:17 EDT
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KIRKUK, Iraq — Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Iraqi cities on Tuesday, inspired by popular protests around the Arab world, to demand job-creation programmes and better electricity supplies.

The biggest turnout was in Fallujah where about 800 protesters marched through the city of western Iraq that a bastion of the insurgency after the US-led invasion of 2003.

Groups of around 200 demonstrated in the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq and the poor Shiite district of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad.

“We are calling today for better basic services and more jobs,” said Sattar Omar, a jobless 27-year-old in Fallujah. “We have been suffering for a very long time, and it is time for us to demand our rights.”

In the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen demonstrators turned out in traditional costumes to also call for better basic services, lower fuel prices and more jobs.

“There is no life without electricity,” “Give us food,” and “Stop corruption,” their banners read.

“We demand that our civil freedoms are guaranteed, that corrupt officials are punished, and that we get better basic services and cheaper fuel,” said Shaker Hassan, a demonstrator at the protest organised by secular groups.

Men, women and Shiite clerics turned out in Sadr City. “We do not beg, we demand our rights,” “No to corruption, Yes to basic services,” read their banners.

Protests over irregular deliveries of food rations for the poor and lack of basic services have sparked increased protests around Iraq since uprisings which have toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt over the past month.

A jobless 30-year-old man in northern Iraq set himself on fire and died on Sunday, the latest in a rash of copycat suicides across the Arab world since a fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire last December.

Facebook groups which have organised smaller protests, including a Valentine’s Day demonstration in Baghdad, are calling for a large turnout at a February 25 rally in the Iraqi capital.

Unlike the pro-democracy protests elsewhere in the Arab world, Iraqi demonstrators demand improvements to living standards eight years after the invasion which overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein.

Angry Iraqis staged violent demonstrations last summer in several southern cities over power rationing as temperatures reached 54 degrees Celsius (130 Fahrenheit).

Homes and businesses across Iraq suffer daily power cuts and rely on private generators to fill the gap, as the war-ravaged country struggles to boost capacity.

On Monday, the government announced that it was postponing a planned purchase of 18 F-16 fighter planes from the United States and diverting the funds to feed the poor.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said after the Valentine’s Day demonstration on Monday that he was not opposed to protests.

“Protesting is a right guaranteed by the constitution, and I ordered the security forces to protect” the demonstrators, the premier said in a meeting with local officials.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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  • Guest

    Geez! Why all the complaining? “W” and the crew gave you Democracy and this is what you do with it? Protest?! Next they will be demanding the folks with the guns and the funny language leave. What gratitude!

  • RottenJohnny

    How’s that democracy thingy working out there, Washington?

  • Anonymous

    George W.Bush shoulda seen this coming.

  • Anonymous

    Iran Set for More Protests
    Demonstrators in Iran are set to hold another protest, following the death of one person during anti-government protests overnight. http://www.newslook.com/videos/290746-iran-set-for-more-protests?autoplay=true

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QMPOO3PZFN7XV2XZKCGSXXR3WM Joe Somebody

    So much for hundreds of billions going to “rebuild”.. Why do these people not have power plants and water systems fixed yet?

    Oh, right.. they fixed a school here and there and the right-wing cheered about how wonderful we were for that. Never mind the lack of water or sanitation, those don’t look good in a few pictures like a new school does.

  • Anonymous

    So, seven years after “liberating” Iraq, this oil producing nation cannot, with US assistance, provide electricity to it’s people.

    Maybe it’s time we try and see what they can do without our “assistance”.

  • Guest

    He couldn’t see his own dick unless he stood in front of a mirror.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Has anybody noticed that the people of all these countries in the ME are demanding exactly the same thing USans are complaining about…except for healthcare, huh? Sad, ain’t it? All of them have free healthcare and free education for their children, even the people of Palestine – the worst of the lot – have those rights. Yet, the mighty US of A, the biggest and wealthiest (snicker, snicker) super power in the world has over 50 million of its tax paying citizens without access to health care or education. What does that say? Think about it!

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Sadly, they had all of that – as well as universal healthcare and education for their children – before they were so liberated from it all.

  • Anonymous

    Hurry Obama! Send the drones, the microwave cannons, and the sound blasters, to assist in the further transition to “Democracy”.

  • Mr. Neutron

    Iran needs to follow Egypt’s lead and open up – “Iran”.
    I didn’t say “Iraq”.

        ~~ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton