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Inside Baghdad's blackouts

In 2016 Iraq was hit by a heatwave, with temperatures hitting 51℃. The intense heat was accompanied by a series of blackouts as government generators struggle to keep up with demand for electricity. Photojournalist Rahman Hassani documented how Baghdad residents coped with the lack of power during the hottest summer on record in the Middle East.

Rahman Hassani grew up in western Iraq, before moving to the UK in 2011. He says the power shortages began after a series of conflicts in the area, including the 2003 invasion, destroyed much of the area’s infrastructure including power plants.

There are three ways to get electricity in Iraq. One is the from the national grid, which is only available for roughly eight hour a day; the second are local private generators run by local residents and the third is a private generator in your own home.

The second and third are far more reliable than the government source, explained Rahman.

“It depends on which city you live in. Each area has a timetable. For example, in a big city like Erbil some areas get official electricity in the morning and others in the afternoon.”

But power shortages have been exasperated by corruption and a lack of investment in infrastructure. The problem has become so bad that last October hundreds of protesters in Baghdad filled the streets to demonstrate against government corruption, which they say is the reason for the country’s unstable electricity supply.

The demonstrators said electricity was unfairly allocated to wealthy neighbourhoods and residents. The  government admitted it was only equipped to supply half of the power needed of the country during the peak summer months.

Caroline is the section editor of Art & Design at Little Atoms. She has written for The Guardian, Vice and Dazed & Confused.

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  1. Lynsey Addario is an American photojournalist whose work appears regularly in The New York Times, National Geographic, and Time Magazine. She has covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo, and has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Genius Grant and the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. She is the author of It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War