Record temperatures in Iraq add fuel to protests

Capital Baghdad recorded a high of 51.7 °C on Wednesday

Baghdad experienced its hottest day on record on Wednesday, as protests against a lack of basic services continued.

Power shortages, a common occurrence since 2003, led to the latest street protests as people struggled to keep cool.

Temperatures climbed to 51.7°C on Wednesday, surpassing a record high temperature of 51.2°C in the capital.

The protests began on Sunday night in Baghdad and several southern cities, and turned violent in the capital. On Monday, two men died after being struck directly by tear gas canisters that are typically fired in arcs over protesters and on less powerful trajectories.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi promised an investigation into the killings, which the interior ministry blamed on armed militias.

“Our security units monitored the situation, and in light of the preliminary investigation results of the events of Sunday night, we observed that dangerous criminal groups in Tahrir Square are seeking to create chaos by beating protesters within the crowd and fabricating clashes,” a statement released on Iraqi state media read.

The deaths threaten to reignite the protest movement against government corruption and incompetence that erupted across Baghdad and southern Iraq in October.

The country will begin a 10-day lockdown from Thursday over the Eid Al Adha holiday in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.