ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – About 200 people gathered at the main gate of Iraq’s giant Nahr Bin Omar oilfield in the southern province of Basra on Sunday, according to police, as Iraqis continue to protest over the lack of public services and widespread corruption.
The crowd of people gathered at the oilfield did not affect its production operations, officials told Reuters. The Nahr Bin Omar oilfield has the output of some 44,000 barrels per day.
The demonstration comes weeks after ongoing protests across different cities in the central and southern cities of Iraq garnered international attention, with Iraqis expressing their anger over poor public services in the oil-rich country and the lack of access to clean drinking water, electricity, and better employment.
On Friday, hundreds of Iraqi protesters threw stones at a provincial government headquarters in Basra and tried to break into the building demanding better services as well as reforms to combat the deep-rooted corruption in government institutions.
Protesters warned the government that they would continue to break into government buildings and oilfields if their demands are not met.
“We will not allow the oilfield to operate unless we get clean water. No services, no jobs and now no clean water. We are fed up,” Hassan Ali, a protest organizer, told Reuters.
The unrest also coincides with Iraqi parties engaging in intense talks over the formation of a new government following the May 12 national election.
The oil production in Basra accounts for 95 percent of Iraq’s oil output. The country is the second-largest oil producer in OPEC. Any disruptions in production could severely affect Iraq’s economy, which mostly relies on its oil export revenue.
Other protesters also gathered at a highway to the east of Basra leading to a border gate with Iran, to prevent trucks from moving between the two countries, according to custom and police officials.
Over the past few months, 14 Iraqi protesters have been killed and hundreds more injured, according to local human rights groups.
Iraq remains high on Transparency International’s Corruption Index as widespread fraud and mismanagement in state institutions are the most significant challenges the country has faced since the fall of the former regime nearly 15 years ago.
In 2017, Iraq ranked 166 out of 176 as the most corrupt country in the world.
Editing by Nadia Riva