One Killed, Eight Wounded in Clashes at Port of Umm Qasr

Protesters atop an Iraqi Army armored personnel carrier, Umm Qasr, Nov. 5 (social media)

Published Nov 5, 2019 2:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Over the past week, as mass anti-government protests roil cities across southern Iraq, commerce has come to a near-halt at the key Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. On Tuesday, at least one protester was killed and eight were wounded when  security forces used live ammunition to disperse protesters at the facility's main gate, witnesses said. 

Umm Qasr is crucial for Iraq's food supply, which is largely imported. Since protesters blocked the truck entrance last week, its productivity has fallen by about 80 percent, port officials told Al Jazeera.

The protests have turned violent, and security forces have killed at least 250 people nationwide since the first demonstrations began on October 1. 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.

Protesters are also demanding the removal 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.