Iraq protestors block key oil refineries as demonstrations continue

KURDISTAN24 – 6 Nov 2019 – ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Protestors in Iraq on Wednesday blocked the entrance of two oil refineries in southern Iraq as nationwide demonstrations rage on.Security and oil sources said demonstrators blocked the entrance of the Nassiriya oil refinery, obstructing tankers that transport fuel to petrol stations from entering the facility, Reuters reports.

The incident has caused fuel shortages across Iraq’s southern Dhi Qar province, it added.

An Iraqi demonstrator uses a slingshot to hurl rocks amid ongoing anti-government protests under al-Jumhuriya bridge in the capital Baghdad on November 3, 2019. – Protesters in Iraq’s capital and the country’s south shut down streets and government offices in a new wave of civil disobedience, escalating their month-long movement demanding wholesale change of the political system. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

Before the protests began in early October, the Nassiriya refinery was producing at least 30,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), but that number has dropped as low as 15,000 bpd.

Elsewhere, protestors closed the Al-Shanfiyah, located south of Diwaniya province, preventing trucks from entering or leaving, Anadolu Agency reported.

Demonstrators are calling for radical change in Iraq’s political system, which they say fails to address their needs, but, rather, serves the interests of a small governing elite.

The protests over the past month reflect widespread dissatisfaction with the economy, including high levels of unemployment, the dismal state of public services, and widespread government corruption.

The United Nations has called for an end to the bloodshed, calling on both protesters and security forces to end violence and begin dialogue.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, said the closure of ports and oil refineries are “detrimental” to the country’s economy.

“Disruption of critical infrastructure also of grave concern,” she wrote. It is the “responsibility of all to protect public facilities.”

Threats and closures “of roads to oil installations, ports [are] causing billions in losses [and] undermines fulfilling protestors’ legitimate demands.”

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi also called for an end to the nationwide protests, which he complained are affecting the country’s economy.Demonstrators have used tires, stones, and metals to block the main entrance to Iraq’s main Gulf port, Umm Qasr, which receives imports of grain, vegetable oils, and sugar shipments and is one of the most significant ports in Iraq.