The summers in Iraq they are always hot, but this time the thermometer read 52°C in the shade. did so much hot that this week Ali Karrar put his baby in the fridge for a few minutes.
That was when Ali Karrar, who lives in the town of Al Hilla, south of Baghdad, still had electricity, as the country went dark. And without electricity, refrigerator, air conditioning or fan are useless.
In Diwaniya, further south, Rahi Abdelhussein spends the day carrying bags of ice cubes to hydrate her children.
Across the country, merchants have installed pipes and faucets so people can get wet on the sidewalk before shopping. In a few minutes, they are dry again.
The worst, as always, was experienced in Basra, the only coastal city in the country, where the thermal sensation is multiplied by the humidity. That prompted the government to enact four holidays this week to keep residents from leaving their homes and cars from raising the temperature.
“We put the children to sleep on the floor so they have a little freshness and we adults don’t sleep all night,” Meshaal Hashem, a docker and father of three in Basra, tells AFP.
This year’s catastrophic situation is the result of dozens of actions that triggered reactions. As a result, at dawn on Thursday there were no watts on the country’s transmission lines.
Who is responsible? Question the 40 million Iraqis who in nearly 20 years saw half of the country’s petrodollars disappear into the pockets of corrupt politicians and businessmen.
“The Electricity Ministry says ‘It’s the Petroleum Ministry’s Fault’, Petroleum Says ‘It’s the Economy Ministry’s Fault’, the Economy says ‘Iran’s Fault’, Iran Says ‘The Iraqi Government’s Fault’ , the government says ‘it’s the people’s fault’, the people say ‘it’s the politicians’ fault’ and the politicians say we have to deal with it,” sums up, ironically, researcher Sajad Jiyad on Twitter.
The Ministry of Electricity has never renewed its circuits, in which it loses 40% of its energy, while the Ministry of Petroleum has difficulties in launching projects to transform natural gas and supply plants.
Iran, to which Iraq owes $6 billion in defaults for gas and electricity, decided on Tuesday to turn off the tap. Baghdad responds that it cannot pay its debts due to US sanctions against Iran and its own financial problems, as covid-19 has for some time been plunging oil prices, its only source of foreign exchange.
And above all, the government argues, few families pay the bills and there are many illegal connections.
In the south of the country, four provinces had been without power since Tuesday, mainly due, according to the Ministry of Electricity, to attacks on high-voltage lines.
Authorities describe those responsible as “terrorists”, but it is not known who is behind the sabotage. “Someone is trying to destabilize the streets and create chaos,” said Electricity Ministry spokesman Ahmed Musa.
There have already been demonstrations in Misan, Wasit provinces (where five protesters and seven police were wounded in altercations) and other areas in the south.
No electricity minister has survived the summer season in 18 years. During this season and in the following months there are usually protests across the country and the holder of this portfolio is the first to fall.
This time, Minister Majid Hantoch, supported by Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, took the initiative: he resigned on Monday.
It was more than enough to fan the anti-government rhetoric of the Sadrist movement, which starts out as the big favorite for the legislative elections scheduled for October.