ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Ministry of Oil said on Saturday that oil export and extraction levels were remaining "stable" despite anti-government protests marred by violence continuing throughout in the nation's central and southern provinces.
Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said that the “extractive side is in very good health,” as well, according to a statement from the ministry. He also said Iraq is “committed” to its share of output in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Since they began in early October, widespread protests in Iraq have resulted in the deaths of at least 300 and some 15,000 have been injured, according to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq (IHCHR).
Amid ongoing worries by government officials about the implications of the country’s current unrest to the economy, social media pages, human rights organizations, and media reports continue to show the use of government violence to counter and deter protests in various parts of Iraq, especially the capital of Baghdad and the oil hub of Basra to the south.
Security forces reportedly used tear gas to disperse protesters on a street along the Tigris River and near a bridge leading toward the heavily fortified Green Zone, where many government offices and diplomatic missions are located. The protesters have repeatedly tried to penetrate the area, emblematic to many in the general Iraqi population of the stark divide between them and the nation's rich and powerful class.
Those who have taken to the streets and many other Iraqis complain of high levels of unemployment, the dismal state of infrastructure and basic public services, and widespread government corruption, widely perceived to be at the heart of it all. Demonstrators are calling for radical change in Iraq’s political system, which they say serves the interests of a small governing elite instead of the general population.
With protesters repeatedly rejecting government concessions and promises of reform, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi again on Saturday pleaded for calm, saying in a statement, “The protests have helped and will help pressure political groups… to reform and accept change.”
“However,” he added, “continuing protests must allow for a return to normal life, which will lead to legitimate demands being met.”
Editing by John J. Catherine