Protesters broke into Iraq’s southern Nassiriya oilfield on Saturday and forced employees to cut off electricity from its control station, taking the field offline until further notice, a security source and two oil sources told Reuters.
The oilfield produces 90,000 barrels a day (bpd) of crude. As they forced its closure, protesters chanted “no homeland, no oil,” the sources said, in which they mean to say “if we do not have a homeland, we do not have oil”.
The phrase “we want a homeland” has been the slogan of the protests which have gripped Iraq since October 1.
Protesters are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty. More than 450 people have been killed.
The incident marks the first time protesters have shut an entire oilfield, though they have blocked entrances to refineries and ports in the past. Iraq’s economy depends on oil exports which make up more than 90 percent of revenues for OPEC’s second largest producer. No foreign companies operate at the oilfield.
Protesters are demanding the removal of the entire ruling elite seen as enriching itself off the state and serving foreign powers — above all Iran — as many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare, or education. They are also demanding the appointment of a premier with no party affiliation.
Iraqi President Barham Salih refused on Thursday to designate the nominee of an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc for prime minister, saying he would rather resign than appoint someone to the position who would be rejected by protesters, further extending weeks of political deadlock.