Smoking his shisha, Sajad says he has no future in Basra. But it is also not that he has a present in this oil-rich region of southern Iraq. As black gold gushes forth, its population sinks into misery.
Streets overflowing with pollution from the extraction of hydrocarbons, problems with the supply of water and also electricity … Basra, its province and its four million inhabitants live in poverty.
Gathered around an apple-scented hookah, Sajad, 17, and his friend Jawad, 16, are carried away by uneasiness.
Sajad has no job. Jawad works “from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in a restaurant for 7,000 dinars a day,” not even $ 5.
“I don’t see any future here, I want to go to Baghdad,” says Sajad on the banks of the Shatt al Arab River, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet.
Although the province produces 70% of Iraqi crude, unemployment is between 20-25% of the workforce, up to 30% among young people, says economist Barik Schuber, based on estimates in the absence of official figures.
The subsoil of Basra treasures enormous amounts of gas and oil, but the population “does not smell the benefits”, protests a resident, who prefers not to give his name for fear of “reprisals from politicians.”
It is true that some investments arrived, such as a new stadium built for the Gulf Cup, a football competition that Basra is to host in January 2023.
But the province’s deputy governor, Dorgham al Ajwadi, acknowledges that “the people are angry.”
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