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Iraqi protesters shut down southern oil field

Iraqi protesters (Voice of America News/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Protesters in Iraq have shut down a southern oil field and forced a cutoff of electricity at the facility amid ongoing unrest that has wracked the capital and much of southern Iraq since public anger first boiled over nearly three months ago.

Reuters reported that the demonstrators chanted, “No homeland, no oil!” as they forced the closure at the Nassiriya oil field, which produces 90,000 barrels of oil a day, on December 28.

They cited “a security source and two oil sources” as saying the facility had been shut down.

Iraq has been shaken for nearly three months by mostly leaderless anti-government and anti-Iranian protests that have led to hundreds of deaths amid a violent crackdown by authorities.

The protesters have decried rampant corruption, a lack of jobs, and perceived official incompetence.

Many have also condemned foreign influence and demanded an end to the system imposed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the ouster of the country’s ruling elite, and an independent in the prime minister’s seat.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi was forced out by the public pressure, although he has said he will remain on in a caretaker capacity.

The constitutional deadline to name his replacement expired late last week.

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets again on December 27 in support of a decision by President Barham Salih to reject an Iran-backed bloc’s candidate for prime minister, while some groups with purported ties to Iran criticized Salih’s move.

Iraq’s parliament on December 24 approved a new electoral law aimed at giving political independents a better chance of winning seats, a key demand of the protesters to make elections fairer.

The new law changes each of the country’s 18 provinces into several electoral districts and prevents so-called unified party lists.

The semiofficial Human Rights Commission in Iraq said on December 28 that at least 490 people had died since the anti-government rallies began in early October, according to AP.