Iraqi security forces shoot protester in the mouth during demonstration against electricity cuts

An Iraqi man connects overhead cables providing generator electricity to homes and businesses who can afford it in Sadr City, Baghdad, July 2, 2021, amid power outages and soaring temperatures. (Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP)
An Iraqi man connects overhead cables providing generator electricity to homes and businesses who can afford it in Sadr City, Baghdad, July 2, 2021, amid power outages and soaring temperatures. (Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – One person was killed and five others wounded by live ammunition on Friday as security forces tried to break up mass demonstrations near a municipal building in southern Iraq’s Maysan province. 

Frequent power cuts in the south have prompted protests nearly every summer for the last 18 years. 

A young man identified only as Salah was shot in the mouth and later died in the town of Qalaat Saleh after Iraqis took to the streets on Friday night to demonstrate against poor services, including cuts to electricity and water.

Dozens of people gathered in front of the mayor’s office and threatened to storm the building before security forces intervened to break up the demonstration. Salah, whose age was not given, was shot during the dispersal and later died in a local hospital, witnesses said.

Basra witnessed similar protests, as did Sadr City in the capital Baghdad, where people chanted slogans against the government and accused officials of failing to provide services.

Power was almost entirely cut off in Iraq’s central and southern provinces before dawn in one of the worst outages of the year so far. Some main electrical networks in Baghdad were working again on Friday afternoon.

But protesters said services were getting worse by the day in a summer where temperatures have already topped 50 degrees Celsius. 

Last week, a number of people were injured in clashes with security forces during demonstrations in many parts of the south.

Many Iraqis live in deteriorating conditions amidst dilapidated infrastructure, despite the country's enormous oil wealth.

The electrical system in Iraq suffers from interruptions for hours every day throughout the year, but the shortage worsens during the hot summer months.

Meanwhile, the skies are clouded with smog as homes run their diesel generators for much longer than usual.

The Iraqi Minister of Electricity resigned this week under pressure due to the electricity crisis. An informed source told Kurdistan 24 that Majid Mahdi Hantoush quit at "a request from the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr."

The Iraqi government has spent about $62 billion during the past 18 years in an attempt to reform the electricity sector, but to no avail due to corruption, according to government sources.