Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi submitted his resignation to the country’s parliament 1 December, as protests continued across the country about unemployment, provision of clean water and corruption.
More than 50 anti-government demonstrators were killed by security forces on 28 November alone, with more than 400 deaths attributed to unrest which accelerated in early October.
In particular, there have been weeks of unrest in Basra province, in the south of the country, with demonstrators demanding improvement in public services including the severe shortage of clean water and power outages.
Iraq is ranked the 12th most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International, and has an unemployment rate of 25 percent.
A report from international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier this year described 2018’s hospitalization of 118,000 and associated violent protests in Basra as attributable to corruption and mismanagement of access to safe drinking water.
“Shortsighted politicians are citing increased rainfall as the reason they do not need to urgently deal with Basra’s persistent crisis,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, July 22. “But Basra will continue to face acute water shortages and pollution crises in the coming years, with serious consequences, if the government doesn’t invest now in targeted, long-term, and badly needed improvements.”
Upstream dams, constructed to support agricultural development (mostly in Iran), and lower rainfall in recent decades have limited water supply in southern Iraq, and higher anticipated temperatures are expected to reduce supply even further. The lack of freshwater has led to seawater intrusion: the water is no longer suitable for either irrigation or human consumption.