Deadly civil unrest - what is happening in Iraq?
At least 46 Iraqis have died in recent days in clashes between protesters and the security forces during street demonstrations that caught the authorities by surprise.
They were the first major deadly protests for more than a year.
Why are people protesting?
Iraqis are fed up. Two years after the defeat of Islamic State much of the country's nearly 40 million population live in worsening conditions despite the country's oil wealth.
Security is better than it has been in years, but wrecked infrastructure has not been rebuilt and jobs are scarce. Youth blame this squarely on what they see as corrupt leaders who do not represent them.
Bearing witness to Iraq′s history – Wadi al Salam
Covering over 1,480 acres and accommodating over five million bodies, Wadi al Salam in Najaf, Iraq, has been a burial site for over 1400 years. Housing the mortal remains of ancient prophets, imams, kings and scientists, 'the valley of peace' has also seen the burial of soldiers and militants killed in recent years fighting IS. The shrine of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shia Imam, attracts millions of pilgrims every year. By Changiz M. Varzi
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Wadi al Salam is the largest cemetery in the world, which ″forms a prominent traditional method of land use.″ In 2011, the cemetery was submitted to UNESCO on the world heritage list
Most graves in the cemetery are built using baked bricks and the towers on the top of the graves are covered with clay. The size of the towers varies according to the socioeconomic status of the dead
The cemetery is popular as a playground with children who live in the streets around the burial ground. Wadi al Salam is located at the heart of Najaf Old Town and accounts for 14 percent of the city′s surface area
An underground vault in Wadi al Salam is the preserve of the wealthy. Such tombs often hold the remains of up to 50 people
During the 2004 battle of Najaf, the underground tombs in the cemetery were used to attack American marines. It was the first time, since the Vietnam War, that American troops had been ambushed from underground tunnels
Owing to the size of Wadi al Salam, those visiting the graves of their relatives often use three-wheelers
Dissimilar in appearance and material, these graves date from a range of different epochs. The most recent ones are made of cement and feature white marble headstones
Every day over 150 new dead bodies arrive to Wadi al Salam from all across the Middle East. In 2015 and 2016, when some of the fiercest battles with IS were raging, the number of daily arrivals could reach 350
The dead bodies are first taken to the shrine of Imam Ali for blessing. Their relatives carry the coffin three times around the shrine, concluding with funeral prayers held within
The recent fighting in Iraq has added new elements to this historic cemetery; one are the posters showing those who have been killed in current clashes. The posters bear photos of the militants or soldiers in uniform in the foreground and the images of the first and third Shia Imams in the background, along with images of Shia holy shrines
Wadi al Salam is also a source of income for many locals, who sell incense sticks, bottles of water to wash the gravestones and turbah, which is a square or round piece of clay from the soil of the cemetery used for daily prayer
Fierce fighting at the site over the last 15 years has left many parts of this world heritage site in ruins
At the heart of the cemetery pilgrims visit a tiny shrine, which is believed to house the mortal remains of the pre-Islamic Arabian prophets, Hud and Salih
Why are conditions so bad?
After decades of war against its neighbours, U.N. sanctions, two U.S. invasions, foreign occupation and sectarian civil war, the defeat of the Islamic State insurgency in 2017 means Iraq is now at peace and free to trade for the first extended period since the 1970s. Oil output is at record levels.
But infrastructure is decrepit and deteriorating, war-damaged cities have yet to be rebuilt and armed groups still wield power on the streets.
A culture of corruption has persisted since the era of dictator Saddam Hussein and has become entrenched under the rule of sectarian political parties that emerged after his fall.
What sparked the last protests? Who organised them?
The protests do not appear to be coordinated by a particular political group. Social media calls for protests gathered pace early this week. The turnout appeared to take security forces by surprise.
The inadequacy of state services and the lack of jobs are the principal reasons for public anger. A series of political moves by the government has contributed, especially the demotion of a popular wartime military officer for reasons that have not been fully explained. Some at the demonstrations were protesting over the commander's removal.
Are mass protests rare in Iraq?
Major protests took place mainly in the southern city of Basra in September last year. Nearly 30 people were killed.
Since then, sporadic demonstrations have taken place but not on the scale of this week's events. These were the first large demonstrations against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's government, which took office in October last year.
Will they spread? What are the risks?
It depends how the government and security services handle the protests. More deaths - so far 46 people have been killed - will fuel anger. But a heavy-handed crackdown could also scare protesters into staying home.
Many Iraqis believe powerful paramilitary groups backed by Iran were behind violent crackdowns in Basra last year. Turnout for protests since then has been small.
If tribal or factional armed groups get involved the situation could deteriorate. Gunfights broke out in southern cities this week between unidentified gunmen and police.
Will the government meet protesters' demands?
The government has promised better employment opportunities for Iraqis.
This week Abdul Mahdi promised jobs for graduates and instructed the oil ministry and other government bodies to include a 50% quota for local workers in subsequent contracts with foreign companies.
Similar promises and pledges to improve healthcare, electricity and services were made last year by the previous government.
Is the unrest sectarian?
No. Most Iraqis have sought to avoid sectarian rhetoric after the brutal experience of Sunni hard-line Islamic State - although sectarian tension still exists. These protests are about worsening economic and living conditions and are taking place mostly in Baghdad and the Shia Muslim-dominated south, but cut across ethnic and sectarian lines. Anger is directed at a political class, not a sect.
That contrasts with protests in 2012 and 2013 that Islamic State exploited to rally support among Sunnis.
What does it mean for the government?
Because no political party or group is publicly involved in these demonstrations - not even the so-called opposition parliamentary grouping of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who has orchestrated some unrest in the past - the government might struggle to control them.
If they spread, it is unclear what options the government has. There is no mention so far of reshuffles or resignations. Parties that agreed to bring Abdul Mahdi to power and which control the weak premier, are likely to want to keep him there. (Reuters)