11/07/2019, 19.05
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Iraq, protests: export resumes. UN and Churches concerned about the violence

Umm Qasr port and southern oil production are back in business. The government says the cost of the protests has reached US. Death toll reached 280. UN Secretary General describes reports about police brutality "disturbing". World Council of Churches urges respect for the legitimate demands of the people.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Operations resumed at a port and an oil refinery in southern Iraq on Thursday after anti-government protesters left both areas, port officials, security and oil sources said without explaining why they left. The UN Secretary General strongly condemned the violence by police and security forces against civilians.

Protesters had blocked access routes to the commercial port of Umm Qasr for over a week, stopping fuel tankers yesterday from entering or leaving Nasiriya oil refinery, causing shortages in southern Iraq.

Blocking Umm Qasr, through which come grain, vegetable oils and sugar imports, has cost the country more than US billion, the government said yesterday.

However, all terminals were operating normally by the early hours of Thursday, said Safa al-Hussein, manager of Iraq’s state-owned ports company.

About 90,000 barrels of crude oil meant for export are still trapped at a northern Iraq field on Thursday because transport routes were cut by protests.

The number of dead and wounded caused by the government’s violent crackdown continues to rise. The latest estimates put the figure at 280 dead, plus thousands of wounded. In recent days, the police started using live ammunition again against protesters.

Speaking about the use of excessive force, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed "serious concern" about "the growing number of deaths and injuries".

Describing as “disturbing” reports that Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition at defenceless protesters, he expressed hope for a serious enquiry into the violence, urging the authorities and protesters to engage in dialogue.

Religious leaders, including Church leaders, also voiced their growing concern over the escalating violence. for its part, the Chaldean Patriarchate recently promoted an ecumenical prayer for "peace, security and stability".

Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches (WCC), also spoke out yesterday, worried about the violence and increasing polarisation.

Rejecting the use of violence against protesters, Tveit pointed out that “Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights of all human beings.”

In his view, the demands of the Iraqi people for social justice, equality, and life in dignity are legitimate. “Their voices must be heard and respected,” he explained.

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