BASRA, Iraq – Iraq’s oil-rich southern province Basra is angry. Despite creating most of Iraq’s revenues, the province has been neglected by central government for the last 15 years, leading to mass unemployment and poverty.
Joblessness is high in Basra city, with 50 percent of its residents living below the poverty line.
“My life is very difficult. Now most separations are because of poverty. The condition is such that a brother does not want his brother to face any economic hardship,” one resident named Mohammad told Rudaw.
Earning as little as 5,000 IQD ($4.20) per day, the residents of Gaid, a neighborhood in Basra, say they eat just one or two meals per day.
“Our living conditions are really bad. If we had better financial status, we would not live here. Even in this place I have rented a house. I wish I owned a house here. I am a worker. Sometimes I have no work for a week or a month. We are dying from hunger,” one resident said.
In this neighborhood, children are often sent to school hungry.
“Many times they do not give us any money when we go to school because we do not have it. Our parents tell us to go to school without money,” one child says.
The neglect, coupled with chronic underfunding of services and widespread corruption, has provoked a convulsion of rage
. Now the protests are spreading, threatening the nation’s vital oil sector.
The official unemployment rate in Iraq is 10.8 percent, but that figure doubles among the country’s large young population. Nearly 59 percent of Iraq’s population is under the age of 25.