Three protesters killed in clashes with Iraq security forces in Nasiriyah

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Three protesters were shot dead Friday in clashes with Iraqi security forces in Nasiriyah, medics said, amid a resurgence in anti-government rallies in the southern city.

Protesters have defied a second wave of coronavirus infections and renewed lockdown measures to keep up their long-running anti-government movement in Nasiriyah, even as it has faded elsewhere in the country.

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This week, they have gathered outside the main governorate building in Nasiriyah to demand the dismissal of governor Nazem al-Waeli over a deterioration in public services.

On Friday, three protesters were shot dead by security forces there, medics in the city told AFP.

“Another 47 people were wounded but the hospitals are all full of coronavirus patients. We’re struggling to find places to treat them,” one medic said.

It was the deadliest day in a week of violence: two protesters were killed in similar confrontations on Monday and Thursday.

Decades of war, government graft and a dearth of investment have left Iraq’s water, electricity and other public works in a pitiful state.

Many households have only a few hours of mains electricity per day and complain of polluted tap water. The resulting anger has sparked huge protests in the past.

In late 2019, public frustration over poor services, unemployment and corruption morphed into an unprecedented anti-government movement across southern Iraq as well as Baghdad.

Nearly 600 people have been killed in protest-related violence since then, including in mass violence at demonstrations but also in targeted assassinations.

The demonstrations had almost entirely died down over the past year but have been bubbling up again in Nasiriyah.

The renewed violence comes less than two weeks before Pope Francis is set to visit Dhi Qar province, of which Nasiriyah is the capital, as part of the first-ever papal trip to Iraq.