Around a million Iraqi citizens took to the streets of Basra on Monday to demand decent living conditions on the ninth anniversary of the US-led invasion.
Protesters waved the national flag and portraits of influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. They carried black caskets marked: "Electricity," "Education" and "Democracy."
Some chanted: "We want our share of oil wealth."
Nine years after the invasion, most Iraqis manage to get by with only a few hours of electricity a day.
Food rations provided by the state have been slashed since the overthrow of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party regime and unemployment is running at over 23 per cent.
Protester Latiaf Kadhim said: "There are no jobs - we are living in dire conditions without public services."
Muttashar Saeed added: "MPs are looking out for themselves while the state ignores the poor.
"We want the attention of officials who are busy with their own affairs in their comfortable chairs and armoured vehicles."
Mr Sadr's spokesman Sheikh Assad al-Nasiri delivered a speech calling on the government to step up with better-paid jobs, public services and to fight corruption.
Mr Nasiri applauded supporters of Mr Sadr for having taken up arms against US-led occupation forces. The last US combat troops withdrew from the country last December.
"We fought for Iraq and liberated it from the American occupation," Mr Nasiri declared.
"Now the government must meet our demands to live a better life."
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