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Police End Protests At Iraq’s Southern Oil Fields

Iraqi police have managed to impose control over protesters at some of Iraq’s biggest oil fields in the south, who had been demanding that companies running the fields hire local people instead of foreigners and Iraqis from other regions.

Iraqi security forces are in control at the Rumaila field and have opened the gates to employees, Iraqi News reported on Thursday, quoting local news sources.

Security forces had earlier evacuated via helicopters personnel at ExxonMobil, PetroChina, and Lukoil from the West Qurna to the Rumaila oil fields, media report.

According to police sources who spoke to Reuters, Iraqi police fired into the air on Thursday to disperse the protesters at one of three protests outside the oil fields in the Basra province, which is home to Iraq’s biggest oil fields and whose oil exports account for more than 95 percent of Iraq’s state revenues.

The protests have not affected production at the three fields—Rumaila, West Qurna 1, and West Qurna 2, oil officials told Reuters. Rumaila is operated by BP, West Qurna 1 by Exxon, and West Qurna 2 by Lukoil.

Local people have been blocking access to offices outside the fields since Sunday, demanding that they be given preference in hiring.

“Protesters have fair demands and they are peaceful so far. If the government does not respond quickly, we fear things will get out of control in Basra,” Faris Shaddad, the head of an energy panel at the Basra provincial council, told Reuters.

Related: India To OPEC: Soaring Oil Prices Will Erode Demand

One protester has been killed and three others wounded in the protests so far, medics and police told Arab News.

Apart from insisting that companies hire locals, the protesters also demand that basic services, such as water supply, in the city of Basra be improved.

“We will paralyze the movement of oil companies,” one of the protest organizers told Arab News.

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The protests come at a delicate time for Iraq while the political parties are trying to form a coalition government after the May general election.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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