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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Iraqis protest over poor living conditions

Iraqis vent their fury over  power cuts in heat wave. 

Iraqi children play in a junkyard in an improvished area in Najaf on June 27, 2017, on the second day of Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. / AFP PHOTO / Haidar HAMDANI
Iraqi children play in a junkyard in an improvished area in Najaf on June 27, 2017, on the second day of Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. / AFP PHOTO / Haidar HAMDANI

A man was killed and five others injured in clashes that erupted in the city of Najaf between police forces and protesters demanding better living conditions.

Hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets of Najaf to voice their frustration over power cuts amid record high temperatures.

The demonstration,now entering its third day, quickly turned violent with clashes in many districts of the holy city. Gunshots were heard coming from rooftops and the victim - also a protester - was hit.

The police confirmed that a group of young men set fire to car tyres in front of the electricity maintenance centre.

“Demonstrators gathered for a third day protesting over power outages without informing security forces or seeking approval. However, the security forces did their best to provide protection for those on the street," police said.

The protesters threatened to block the streets and turn the demonstration into a sit-in.

Police have opened an investigation into the killing.

The vice president of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, said “The government supports peaceful protesters, however, the level of violence escalated tremendously and unfortunately resulted in the death of a demonstrator”.

Mr Allawi expressed “deep concern” about the incident and stressed the "constitutional right" to peaceful protest, especially when the demands were entirely legitimate.

He insisted that citizens also have the right to adequate public services, including electricity and water, but was doubtful about how committed politicians were to providing them.

He also called for an independent investigation into how the violence flared so quickly..

Intermittent electricity, recurrent power outages and lack of access to water have brought many out on to the streets across the country in the last few years. .

The demonstrations come at a time when Iraqi forces are close to defeating ISIL in Mosul..

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