World, Middle East

Protesters block road to Umm Qasr port in Iraq’s Basra

Demonstrators in Iraq’s oil-rich Basra province demand more job opportunities, improved public services

Protesters block road to Umm Qasr port in Iraq’s Basra FILE PHOTO

By Amir al-Saadi


Hundreds of protesters on Friday cut the road to the Umm Qasr seaport in Iraq’s southern Basra province.

Tension has steadily mounted in Basra since Sunday, when a demonstrator was killed by security forces while taking part in a protest against high unemployment and chronic power outages.

Raed al-Jamil, who works at the seaport, told Anadolu Agency that “hundreds” of protesters had blocked the main road to Umm Qasr, “paralyzing activity at the port”.

Protester Hussein al-Ahmadi told Anadolu Agency: “We cut the main road [to the seaport] so they might feel what we feel every day.”

“Thousands of Basra’s young people remain unemployed, even though the province is a main center for the production and export of oil,” al-Ahmadi said.

Protesters, he added, would not reopen the road “until we receive guarantees that our demands will be met”.

Situated near Iraq’s border with Kuwait, Umm Qasr is Iraq’s largest seaport in the Persian Gulf.

On Friday morning, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi paid a visit to Basra, where he promised to address protesters’ grievances.

Roughly 80 percent of Iraq’s overall crude oil exports originate from oilfields in Basra province.

For years, Basra residents have complained that foreign nationals, rather than locals, were being employed by the domestic energy sector.

They also complain of frequent power outages amid summer temperatures that often reach as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

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