Losses Due to Protests at Port of Umm Qasr Rise
After a brief reopening Thursday, the port of Umm Qasr, Iraq shut down once again as protesters resumed a blockade of the main entrance road. The facility, which is a key part of the logistics chain for Iraq's food supply, has been effectively shut down for more than a week.
At least one protester was killed and eight were wounded when security forces opened fire on a crowd at Umm Qasr on Tuesday.
The protest is part of a wave of unrest across southern Iraq that began in early October. Clashes between protesters and armed security forces have claimed the lives of more than 270 people, including four who were killed in Baghdad on Thursday.
The economic losses from the port closure are also significant, according to the government. "Iraq’s losses [due to the port closure] have exceeded $6 billion until now,” said Abdul Khalaf, a spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, speaking at a press conference Thursday.
The protesters are demanding basic public utilities like running water and electricity, better economic opportunities and an end to corruption. Iraq is ranked among the world's most corrupt countries in transparency perception surveys, and its public infrastructure still has not recovered from the effects of the years-long Iraq War, despite billions in oil revenue available for improvements.
Iraqi protesters are also calling for a reduction of Iranian influence. Iran-linked Shiite parties play a powerful role in Iraq's political life, and Iran-linked militias make up an important part of Iraq's security forces. Iran's military is believed to have a direct hand in keeping Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in power despite widespread calls for his removal, according to Reuters.