Iraqi PM Abadi visits Basra after deadly protests
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has visited the southern oil city of Basra after deadly protests there against dire economic conditions.
Abadi visited the city on Friday and met with military and security officials, the country’s al-Sumaria television network reported.
Protests have been bubbling away in the city since Sunday, with people trying to break into major oilfields.
On Thursday, security forces clashed with protesters near the giant West Qurna-2 oilfield. The confrontation led to the death of one person and the injury of at least 12 others, including members of security forces.
The protesters have also tried to storm the offices of oil companies. Local workers said around 10 protesters managed to briefly enter a crude separation facility before police pushed them back.
An angry crowd also set fire to a police vehicle, said two policemen at the scene.
At the heart of protests in Basra are unemployment, under-provision of public services, power outages, and severe water shortages.
Some have called on foreign companies to create jobs. “Why should young men from Basra beg for jobs while oil companies are hiring foreign workers?” asked protest organizer Falih al-Darraji.
The crude pumped out of Basra makes up 95 percent of the government’s revenues, making potential disruption in the outflow exceptionally dangerous.
Abadi has ordered a ministerial committee to look into the protesters’ demands.
Meanwhile, local media said authorities in the eastern province of Wasit – where similar protests had been taking place over the past few weeks – had ordered to burn hundreds of worn-out tires to prevent protesters from setting them ablaze.
The fire caused considerable environmental pollution which has already gone beyond Iraq’s borders and affected Iran’s southwestern province of Khouzestan.
The protests come as the country is struggling to rebuild after three years of fighting against Daesh Takfiri terror group and is dealing with allegations of fraud surrounding its May 12 parliamentary polls.