Hundreds protested in Babil, Baghdad, and Nasiriyah (above) in southern Iraq March 9 in the face of sharp price hikes in cooking oil and other basic necessities, dealing blows to working people’s lives.
“The price of some goods has doubled and even tripled in some cases,” Yasser al-Barrak told the press at the protest in Nasiriyah. “The rise in prices is strangling us, whether it is bread or other food products,” said retired teacher Hassan Kazem.
Mohammed, a porter in Nasiriyah, told the United Arab Emirates based The National that “today, from morning until now I probably made around 10,000 dinar, [$6.90] but can you believe that I have to pay 21,000 dinars for a tin of cooking oil?”
Trade ministry spokesman Mohamed Hanoun blamed the hikes on the war in Ukraine. There is “a major global crisis because Ukraine has a large share of the [world market] in cooking oils,” he said. Ukraine is facing a deadly assault by Moscow that is threatening its ability to market crops. It is the largest exporter of sunflower oil in the world, with some 46% of world production, as well as 15% of the production of wheat. In fact, prices on many basic necessities began rising well before the war in Ukraine started.
In 2019 monthslong massive protests rocked the country, triggered by unemployment, corruption, poor living conditions and pressure from the Iranian government seeking more control over Iraq. Demonstrators demanded an end to interference in Iraq by Tehran and Washington and greater political rights. Government-backed thug attacks left 600 dead. Hoping to avoid a repeat, the government said it has increased pensions for the lowest paid retirees and some government workers by about $70 a month. It also suspended customs duties on imported food and some other goods for two months.