On the night of August 21, 2010 around 200 people in Nasiryah, the provincial capital of Dhi Qar, marched to the governorate council building to demonstrate against the lack of power. People in the crowd shouted, “Where is the electricity State of Law?” in reference to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s list. Some ended up throwing rocks at the police and the council headquarters. That led to clashes with the security forces, who used water cannons to break up the protest. 40 people ended up getting arrested, 16 were wounded, including 10 policemen, and a curfew was imposed upon the city. A spokesman for the provincial council said the demonstration was not spontaneous and claimed an investigation was underhand to determine who was behind it. The head of the council said he didn’t know why people had taken to the streets as he claimed the electricity supply had recently improved.
As reported earlier, authorities knew about the demonstration in advance. On August 16, they sent out police to neighborhoods with bullhorns to tell people to stay away from any planned protest. That obviously did not work.
Back in June there was a larger demonstration in Nasiriyah over the lack of electricity. 1,000 people were said to have turned out, and 16 police were wounded during that incident. That happened after similar actions were taken in Basra and other cities. Those eventually led Maliki to dump the Electricity Minister.
Iraqis are still facing a very hot summer this year. Temperatures are hovering around 120 degrees. Power output is said to stand at about 8,000 megawatts per day, while demand is approximately 14,000. The Electricity Ministry rations out power output to the provinces, but with the heat many are ignoring their quotas and using more, which is overloading the system. On August 12 for example, the governorates used so much that the entire power grid was shut down for seven hours.
There is no immediate relief to be had for the temperatures or the deficiencies with electricity. The lack of services was an issue in both the 2009 and 2010 elections, but the new politicians have not fixed the problem. That can only lead to the growing disillusionment with the government that is overflowing into public anger as seen in Nasiriyah in June and August. That could lead to a real crisis of governance within the country as the public may lose faith in the infant democratic process since it has not addressed their demands.
Aswat al-Iraq, “Police in Thi-Qar admit 40 riot makers to judiciary,” 8/22/10
Attiya, Bassem, “Sixteen wounded in Iraq electricity demo,” Agence France Presse, 8/22/10
Lando, Ben, “Heat wave hits citizens, fuel and power supplies,” Iraq Oil Report, 8/16/10
Al-Rafidayn, “16 injured, including 10 police officers in acts of violence associated with a demonstration in Nasiriyah,” 8/22/10
Reuters, “Iraq police, protesters clash over power shortages,” 8/22/10
Tawfeeq, Mohammed, “Hundreds protest bad basic services in Iraq,” CNN, 8/22/10