Iraq: The fight for human rights

Iraq: The fight for human rights

A hospital fire which broke out on 13 July in the southern province of Iraq has killed at least 92 people and injured over 100. 

According to police, the fire was caused by an explosion of an oxygen tank in an ICU where COVID-19 patients were being treated. 

How has the government responded?

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has chaired an emergency meeting, ordering the suspension and detention of the hospital’s director, Dhi Qar Governorate Health Director and the local civil defence director, for further investigation. 

IMAGE credit: Twitter (@IraqiGovt)

In an attempt to console the grieving families, Al-Kadhimi has also declared an official mourning. 

However, the effectiveness of this decision has been criticised. Victims’ relatives have voiced their anger and distress at the tragic situation by taking to the streets and protesting.

Protests continue to rise

Protests have since broken out across multiple cities in Iraq, as this becomes the second hospital fire within three months. 

On 24 April, a hospital fire broke out in the capital city Baghdad, sadly killing more than 80 civilians.

The people of Iraq have expressed their frustration at the government, who they believe have failed to protect them. The protests have been ongoing since 2019, the largest since 2003, as civilians demand basic necessities including electricity and water. 

For them, the act of protesting represents an empowering and unifying resistance against a system of negligence and corruption. Indeed, the trauma of many years in conflict has left many citizens simply frustrated.

Demands for health and safety measures

A medic at the hospital tells the BBC: “We complained many times over the past three months that a tragedy could happen any moment from a cigarette stub, but every time we get the same answer from health officials: ‘We don’t have enough money’.”

image credit: unsplash/Levi Meir Clancy

The head of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission stresses that the fire has highlighted just how ineffective the safety measures are within the country’s health system.

Ali Al-Bayati said: “To have such a tragic incident repeated a few months later means that still no sufficient measures have been taken to prevent them.”

Anger from the victims’ families

Forensic teams have currently identified 39 bodies. DNA tests continue to be conducted for families to collect their loved ones’ remains for burials.

Imad Hashim, a 46-year-old citizen, expresses his disdain after the government’s mismanagement lost him his family. He says: “No point demanding anything from a failed government. Three days and this case will be forgotten like others.”

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