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More than a hundred protesters were dispersed by police forces using tear gas at the entrance of the Nahr Bin Omar oilfield near Basra amid continuing riots in the country, The Gulf Today reports. Protesters are demanding access to drinking water, better public service, and an end to widespread corruption as well as more jobs and an end to the power outages that became more frequent during the summer season of peak demand.
Last week, protesters tried to enter forcefully the headquarters of the Basra provincial government, Reuters reported on Friday, setting fire to tires in front of the building and throwing gasoline bombs at it.
The group dispersed at Nahr Bin Omar has focused its demands on clean drinking water and an improvement in basic public services. “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,” one of the protest organizers said as quoted by The Gulf Today.
The Basra province, where many of the protests are taking place, is home to Iraq’s largest oilfields and accounts for more than 95 percent of the country’s state revenues thanks to oil exports—a fact that makes the area vital for OPEC’s second-largest oil producer. However, it is also as underdeveloped as most of the rest of Iraq, Al Jazeera notes in a recent overview of the protests, with chronic blackouts, lack of access to clean drinking water, and unemployment.
The oilfields in the province are a natural target for protesters, as any production outage hits export revenues. In July, when the protests began, protesters gathered at three fields in southern Iraq—Rumaila, West Qurna-1, and West Qurna-2—but were quickly dispersed by the police.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.