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Iraq protesters threaten
Basra oil exports

Demonstrators on Tuesday blocked vital roads used to transport oil to the ports of Basra and Umm Qasr.

Oil field outside Basra. (AFP/Essam al-Sudani)

BEIRUT – Furious residents of southern Iraq’s main port city of Basra have threatened to disrupt oil exports amid mounting protests against the government over corruption and infrastructure failures.

 

Demonstrators on Tuesday blocked vital roads used to transport oil to the ports of Basra and Umm Qasr, threatening further action if their demands for government action were not met.

 

The Basra protests come as temperatures have soared over 50 degrees Celsius as the city’s overburdened electrical grid has left residents without power for long stretches of time.

 

Demonstrators in the impoverished city have also blasted the poor condition of tap water, demanding state action for clean tap water to improve hygiene.

 

“Dozens of activists carrying banners that bore slogans attacking the political process and a number of state officials blocked the roads leading to the Nahran oil fields in the north of the province,” Alaraby Aljadeed reported.

 

“Although the police were able to convince them to open the road, they threatened to organize an open sit-in on the main routes for exporting Iraqi oil if they did not get their rights,” the London-based daily added.

 

The vast majority of Iraq’s oil is shipped out of the country via the Al-Basrah Oil Terminal as well as its sister Khawr al-Amiyah Oil Terminal, both of which are located outside of Basra along the Persian Gulf.

 

One of the Basra demonstrators told Alaraby Aljadeed that locals had “decided to block the roads for transporting oil to the center of the city and the exportation outlets to impact the size of the economic resources gained by the local and federal governments.

 

“The demonstrators have decided to hold a sit in and stop the oil sector’s production entirely if their demands are not met.”

 

The activist added that “Tuesday’s demonstration [began to] look more organized after [the demonstrators] divided themselves in to several groups to block the largest number of roads possible.”

 

“The police tried to stop the demonstration but they withdrew after they clashed with the protesters, who pelted them with stones and empty water bottles.”

 

A notable from the nearby village of Al-Deir, gave more details on the reasons behind the protest in remarks to the newspaper.

 

“Hundreds of demonstrators [took to the streets] to demand their share of the oil, the appointment of their children, improved provision of electricity to their areas and implementation of service projects,” Mukhaylif al-Azirjawi said.

 

The notable warned against “ignoring the voice of the popular movement, because it could become a time bomb at any moment and cause unfavorable results.”

 

Meanwhile, local Radio Al-Mirbad reported that “dozens of locals from the village of Al-Deir and neighboring areas have divided themselves between the roads leading to the oil fields and stopped employees from passing.”

 

“Some of the protesters say that an army officer assaulted a demonstrator after an argument when the former tried to open the road.”

 

“The inhabitants of these areas are calling for their children to be appointed as staff members in the South Oil Company, as well as the implementation of service and health projects—something which is stipulated in contracts between the Iraqi government and the oil companies.”

Oil field outside Basra. (AFP/Essam al-Sudani)

The demonstrators have decided to hold a sit in and stop the oil sector’s production entirely if their demands are not met.