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Protesters In Iraqi Cities Demand Better Social Services, Corruption Probes

Lawyers working in Iraq's Karbala Province demonstrate against corruption on February 10.
Lawyers working in Iraq's Karbala Province demonstrate against corruption on February 10.
BAGHDAD -- A series of protests were held across Iraq on February 10 with demonstrators demanding better social services, stable food prices, and investigations into corruption cases, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Protests of various sizes were held in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Karbala, Najaf, Diwaniyah, Kut, Ramadi, Samawah, and Amara. Members of the Iraqi union of lawyers joined demonstrations in Baghdad, Karbala, and Samawah.

In Karbala, protesters demanded an improvement in basic municipal services and an investigation into the local government's weak response to previous demands made by protesting citizens.

Waiq al-Shammari, head of the Karbala lawyers association, told RFI that "unemployment, corruption, and crime are plaguing the body of the Iraqi society and the government and responsible authorities should address these problems."

The placard of a protester in Karbala read: "We Have Nothing. We Need Everything. Solution: Set Ourselves On Fire."

Journalist Hassun Digger told RFI that events taking place in various parts of Iraq are a "logical extension of similar demonstrations in Arab countries." He said "the impact of those events will be reflected by the political agenda in the upcoming elections [in Iraq]," adding that Iraqis will not vote for the "same faces in the government."

In Samawah, social demands were combined with protests against widespread corruption and the slow legislative process in parliament, which they said prevents the timely introduction of new policies.

Farmers from Mishkhat in Najaf Province call for the government to support agriculture in Iraq.

In Najaf, protesters from the agricultural area of Mishkhat demanded greater state assistance be given to farmers, the resignation of the head of the local government, and an investigation into the funding of reconstruction projects.

Several also complained about inadequate government food rations, high food prices, problems with the power supply, and the high unemployment rate.

In Basra, protesters claimed that a change in state food rations providing families with money instead of food has left families unable to buy enough food as prices for basic foodstuffs have nearly doubled in recent months.

Protester Abu Nidal told RFI that officials in charge of delivering food rations to poor families have been seen selling the rations in the market. He said such corruption has brought people out to protest.

People protest against unemployment and corruption under tight security measures in Mosul.

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