As summer temperatures reached scorching levels, hundreds of Iraqis poured into the streets to protest widespread power outages in Baghdad and the country’s southern provinces.
In the oil-rich city of Basra, demonstrators blocked highways and burned tyres last week to pressure the local government into addressing chronic electricity cuts and poor public services.
Temperatures in Basra have been soaring above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) at noon. Iraqi authorities responded by shortening working hours to less than five, citing extreme heat.
Electricity outages have routinely led to violent protests, particularly in southern Iraq, as successive governments failed to address the recurrent issue in recent years.
Power cuts, the lack of services, and rampant corruption were also among the main drivers of mass anti-government protests that erupted in 2019 across Baghdad and Iraq’s mainly Shia south.
While hundreds of people died and thousands were injured in the protest movement, few demands were met before demonstrations came to an abrupt end in March 2020 because of the spread of the coronavirus.
“Electricity is a basic need. Its shortage is a violation of many human rights, including the right to health, safe housing, education and others,” said Ali al-Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.