BASRA, IRAQ — After months of violent demonstrations that saw thousands take to the streets and government buildings torched, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is describing the deadly protests in the southern city of Basra as a mere “political dispute.”

The comments came after at least thirteen demonstrators were killed and dozens more wounded in clashes with security forces as the violence escalated in the past week. The unrest has thrust Iraq into a major crisis at a time when politicians still have yet to agree on a new government after an inconclusive election in May.

The protesters first took to the streets earlier this summer in response to severe water shortages, water contamination, and frequent power outages. But people’s anger here goes beyond that. Iraq’s southern province is home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves — yet unemployment is soaring and public services are a mess.

“Down with al-Abadi and all his government!” one woman told VICE News during a visit to the city in late August. She was quickly drowned out by her fellow protesters, who began shouting, “No, no to Abadi!”

Decades of war has destroyed Iraq’s economy and its infrastructure — and temperatures soaring up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit this summer haven’t helped either.

For years, dams in Turkey, Syria, and Iran reduced the freshwater levels in Iraq’s two main rivers — the Tigris and Euphrates — to critically low levels. That’s allowed salty sea water to flood in from the Southern Persian Gulf, entering Basra’s canals and streams, turning the once fertile land into desert, and decimating farms. It’s also contaminated drinking water supplies, leading to thousands of people being hospitalized.

Like many in the city, protester Ahmed Hussein is unemployed.

“Let them just take all the oil,” Ahmed told VICE News. “We just want clean water. Just fix the salty water. We don’t want oil. We only need clean water to wash our hands and our faces. Iraqis need clean water!”

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Alp Erol · September 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm

That was how the Syrian Civil War began too.

Goldfinga Sliverfinga · September 14, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Blame the west for ur destruction

ShadowDrift · September 14, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Just pump most of the worlds raw sewage to Iraq & build filtration centers for the countries water problem. See, its that simple.

grandios pulsios · September 14, 2018 at 1:06 pm

The guy in the thumbnail has a gucci hat

Gipsy Danger · September 14, 2018 at 1:07 pm

The United States and Britain. Should both send economic aid to Iraq. Since they are responsible for Iraq's current state.

Jackopollo · September 14, 2018 at 1:09 pm

They need Sadam back, thats why Assad works in Syria – its just their culture to be ruled by a tyrant

Where's The Wall? · September 14, 2018 at 1:11 pm

A country destroyed all because of a lie about WMDs

ROBERT BRUCE · September 14, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Asad1969 · September 14, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Oh Iraq! Allah did not instruct you to seek justice from any but He. La Illaha ila Huwa. Do not die associating partners with Allah. Shirk is unauthorized authority. Your marja invited satan to occupy you. They were not authorized by Allah. The gates of Hell are open upon you, so take heed. In the same way your are invited to Hell through politics, you are invited to Paradise through turning to Allah ONLY. Send blessings on Maula Hussein (as) and reject the Marja who put you in this situation. Support Maula Hussein (as) by NOT supporting the hypocrites who called upon Bush instead of calling upon Allah. Read Holy Quran 2:257 and take heed. Fe eAman Allah.

Beor Eviols · September 14, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Just let that place split into 3 and be done with the Sykes-Picot agreement

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