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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Iraqi marchers don yellow vests after Paris riots

Basra experiences more street protests over a lack of jobs and essential services

Protesters chant slogans in front of Basra's provincial council building during a demonstration demanding better public services and jobs. AP
Protesters chant slogans in front of Basra's provincial council building during a demonstration demanding better public services and jobs. AP

Demonstrators in Basra have renewed protests about Iraq's poor public services by donning yellow vests similar to those worn by French protesters marching against proposed fuel tax hikes.

Hundreds of Iraqis wearing the high-visibility jackets marched in Basra on Tuesday to call for improved services in the country's oil-rich south, where electricity and water supplies are sporadic and unemployment is high.

Violent demonstrations in France forced President Emmanuel Macron to back down over a proposed tax increase on diesel fuels.

In Iraq, protesters burnt tyres and chanted slogans outside Basra's provincial council building as riot police moved in to contain the demonstration.

Unverified footage on social media showed protesters throwing missiles. During the ensuing clashes there were reports of live fire being used to disperse the crowd.

In Baghdad, the government's inability to form a Cabinet further angered the public, who for months have been demanding change from a distrusted political elite.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in October that reconstruction would be top on the next administration's agenda, but he has failed to win MPs' approval for his Cabinet.

Deputy Speaker Hassan Al Kaabi warned that further delays could make the security situation worse.

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Read more:

Iraqi parliament again fails to vote on vacant ministries

Iraq lawmakers confirm new government but key posts are left empty

Basra: almost 300,000 children at risk of waterborne diseases

Baghdad faces renewed protests in southern Iraq

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A former member of parliament told The National last month that Basra residents were concerned the new government would not provide them with public services like water and electricity.

"We will ensure that dictatorship is combated in the country. Basra's citizens are calling for their rights to education, employment or we will revolt," said Mohammed Al Tai.

The new government faces the twin tasks of rebuilding the north of the country following the war against ISIS and fixing services in the south.

On Monday, Finance Minister Fuad Hussein was interrupted by angry protesters during a press conference in Basra. The head of the provincial council told Asharq Al Awsat newspaper that Mr Hussein had said more power would be transferred from Baghdad central government to Basra.

Protests in the neglected south have been going on for years but intensified in July. A particularly hot summer without basic services and the return of unemployed soldiers compounded an already-difficult situation.

A lack of functioning toilets and bathrooms in Basra's schools put more than 277,000 children in danger, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned in October. Water shortages forced nearly 4,000 families from their homes during the hottest month of August, the charity added.