Basra News


Sicuro Group to partner Benaa Al Basra for Oil Ops Centre

Benaa Al Basra has been endorsed by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office to make Basra’s Oil Operations Centre (OOC) operational.

The OOC has appointed Sicuro Group, a CMC-licenced, Iraq-experienced tracking, communications and information provider as the exclusive operating partner.

According to a press release from Sicuro, “this new partnership will ensure the required expertise and resources are applied to the centre in order to deliver timely information, civil and military authority liaison and coordination, incident management and emergency response to all international oil companies operating in Southern Iraq“.

The OOC will be operational from mid-August, delivering enhancements to the Basra Operations Command.

(Source: Sicuro)

Iraq’s Basra plans Dam on Vital River

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Minister of Transport Kazem Finjan al-Hamami revealed July 25 that Iran has agreed to participate with Iraq in the construction of a dam on the Shatt al-Arab River — formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — to confront the ongoing water crisis. Both countries hope to achieve bilateral benefits from the project to be established in Abu Flous Port in Abu al-Khaseeb district.

The agreement comes at the heels of the popular protests organized in Basra on July 8 about the lack of drinking water and services. On July 5, Basra’s tribes asked the Iranian government to stop the flow of water into Iraqi territory, which increases the salinity in the Shatt al-Arab River.

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Cabinet Approves Funding for Infrastructure Projects

The Cabinet held its weekly regular meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, and discussed progress in the implementation of measures to improve the delivery of essential services across Iraq.

It approved an allocation of 4 billion Iraqi dinars for the comprehensive and immediate maintenance of the soil barrier with Iran to protect Basra’s farms and oil fields from polluted water from the Iranian side.

It also voted to fund several key projects in Basra, Dhi Qar, Al-Muthana and Najaf provinces, and received a briefing on the Nebras petrochemical complex in Basra which will provide thousands of jobs and boost the local economy.

The Cabinet also discussed current and future plans to support the agricultural sector across Iraq.

The Cabinet approved the establishment of a consulate for the Republic of Lebanon in the city of Najaf.

(Source: Iraqi Govt)

Internet Shuts Down, Fake News Blossoms

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Mustafa Habib.

Iraqi Internet Shuts Down, Fake News Blossoms During Information Blackout

When it came to disinformation, shutting down the Internet to prevent protests in Iraq may have backfired. Iraqis get most of their information from social media and there was none, so false reports circulated wildly.

On June 14, the Iraqi government shut down the Internet in an effort to try and prevent the spread of anti-government protests. The demonstrations, which called for better state services, power and water, had spread from the southern city of Basra to nine other provinces, including Baghdad. And clearly the government wanted to prevent them from going any further.

For the past few years, these types of protests have broken out every summer. In stifling heat rising to 50 degrees Celsius, the lack of power to refrigerate foods or keep houses cool and the fact that water coming out of the taps is salty, is enough to drive Iraqis to protest. But these demonstrations spread further than previous years.

And one imagines that the Iraqi government was trying to prevent the spread of information about the protests, in order to contain them. They are able to block the Internet thanks to the fact that most of infrastructure used for relaying the Internet is government-owned.

However the Internet blockage seemed to only frustrate Iraqis further. Locals here rely heavily on social media to get their news; they tend not to trust local media, believing it to be partisan or funded by interested parties who push their own agenda. What friends and relatives post on Facebook has become a major and important source of information – and when the Internet is down they obviously cannot access this.

So locals found themselves watching TV to get more information about the protests or resorting to VPN – virtual private networks – to access the online world. Iraqis have become accustomed to using this kind of software when the government shuts down, or throttles the Internet here, but as digital privacy experts point out, these too can be  dangerous, especially with regard to privacy.

Clearly Iraqis right around the country were interested to know more about the protests. But pictures and videos were hard to come by, given the Internet shutdown. This led dozens of Facebook pages, specializing in Iraqi news and current affairs, to write up stories about the protests – but as they did, they also used older pictures and videos and many ended up publishing unsubstantiated rumours.

Iraqis who sympathized with the demonstrators didn’t just publish news reports on their pages, they also uploaded pictures and videos to Facebook – some of these were real and some were not. News organisations, like NIQASH, received these kinds of items via messages from people who appeared to be private citizens; however, due to the Internet shutdown, it was difficult to verify the content that was being sent and some of it was certainly not from the current demonstrations.

In fact, as Internet-rights activist and head of the Ansam Network, Haidar Hamzouz, says, the Internet blockade may well have had the opposite of the government’s intended effect. “Shutting down the Internet is a violation of the freedom of expression,” Hamzouz told NIQASH. “And the decision to do this was not the right one – it actually contributed to the spread of false news and it also became very difficult to inform anyone that  certain items were false news.”

It seems that in Iraq, as elsewhere in the world, false reports and emotion-generating half-truths spread far faster than the truth.

Even though the government owns the public broadcaster, Iraqi Media Network, and they have huge resources, they still have not been able to stop the spread of these false reports and rumours, Hamzouz says. “We need institutions that are capable of relaying the facts and combatting fake news, rather than those who just shut down the Internet,” he argues. “Combatting fake news and untrue reports requires a change in the communal culture, one that values verification and checks sources. Unfortunately this doesn’t yet exist in Iraq,” he notes.

One of the more dangerous pieces of false news involved reports that the security forces, who were clashing with the demonstrators in the south, were actually from elsewhere, and more specifically from Anbar and Mosul. The message was that Sunni Muslim soldiers – who mainly come from central and northern Iraq – were abusing Shiite Muslim protestors, who mainly live in southern Iraq. It was clearly a report aimed at fuelling sectarian conflict.

“It is so unfortunate that this news incited hatred against us,” says Ali al-Rubaie, a police captain based in Rustafa, Baghdad. “The members of the security forces who were deployed to the protests were actually residents from the same cities. Each province has its own police and counter-terrorism forces. It would be impossible to do that job with troops from outside of the provinces in which the protests occurred,” he argues.

Additionally when the protests first started, news that the demonstrators were clashing with Iraqi security forces spread fast. But given the internet blockade, it was difficult to find pictures from incidents. One picture that was shared many times shows an Iraqi soldier pointing his gun at an unarmed civilian lying on the ground. However the picture was actually taken during a military training exercise in 2014, organized for a military training graduation ceremony in Karbala.

Another dangerous piece of news had Talib Shaghati, the head of Iraq’s special forces troops, commenting on the clashes between the demonstrators and the security forces. “This is not our battle and we will not stain our hands with the blood of our sons and brothers for the sake of some corrupt officials,” Shaghati was alleged to have said in a  statement that was widely circulated on social media.

The same report said that Shaghati  had been asked to send his troops to the protests but he had refused, and that he had asked the government to listen to the demonstrators’ demands before it was too late. Thousands of Iraqis believed this report and some even said that there should be a military coup because it was clear that the protests had no impact on the government, and the military were on the protestors’ side.

The US was not coming to the rescue either: One report said that US president Donald Trump had said his government was keeping a close eye on the protests in Iraq. This was followed by video footage of two military divisions landing at Baghdad airport. None of this was true: The video was an old one.

Saudi Arabia was not coming to the rescue either. As the protest movement gained momentum, its critics were divided. Some said Iran was behind the protests because the neighbouring nation was going to stop supplying power to Iraq. Others said Saudi Arabia was at fault and was pushing people to demonstrate in order to cause chaos in Iraq.

One of the obviously false reports was started by a page on Facebook called Saudi News. It said that Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarch had ordered water lines and electricity transmission lines to be built urgently for the southern parts of Iraq. The report spread quickly throughout Iraqi social media despite its fanciful nature.

Kuwait donates Generators to Iraq

Kuwait has donated 17 mobile electric generators with a total capacity of 30,000 kilowatts to Iraq, the Undersecretary of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Electricity and Water, Mohammed Bushehri has announced.

In a press statement, Bushehri said the donation came “to alleviate the electricity crisis in the Iraqi city of Basra”.

“In the light of the current difficult circumstances faced by our brothers in Iraq, which is partly due to a severe shortage of electricity, His Highness the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah has instructed us to provide urgent assistance to brotherly Iraq” he said.

The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity announced last Friday that Kuwait would supply it with fuel to operate the power stations in the country.

Videos were circulated on social media showing a convoy of generators and fuel tankers heading to Iraq.

Iran has recently stopped exporting electricity to Iraq as a result of Baghdad’s accumulated debt.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

(Picture: Parliament in Kuwait City. Credit, Leshonai)

Video: Protests Outside Oil Field near Basra

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

People are still protesting across southern Iraq, despite a promise by the prime minister to create jobs and improve public services.

The unrest began in the oil-rich province of Basra last week and has spread to several other large cities.

Demonstrators say they’re not benefitting from Iraq’s vast oil wealth, because of government corruption and mismanagement.

Al Jazeera‘s Osama Bin Javaid reports:

Video: Iraq Struggles as Protests Spread

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Police and medical sources say at least 11 people have now died in protests in southern Iraq against the poor state of public services.

The unrest began in Basra last week and has spread to several other large cities.

One of the main reasons for the anger is the frequent power blackouts that are severely worsening living conditions.

Some in Iraq are hoping that Iran can supply them with electricity via Iran’s national grid, prompting Saudi Arabia to offer aid.

The government in Baghdad is racing to find a way to meet some of the protesters’ demands for economic and energy reforms and bring an end to the protests before they turn into a large, nationwide movement.

Al Jazeera‘s Imran Khan reports from Baghdad:

Video: Death Toll Rises in Southern Iraq Protests

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

For two weeks, demonstrators have gathered in southern Iraq to protest against the lack of access to electricity, clean water, and jobs.

Protesters have said that they are organising peacefully and the response of the security forces has been excessive, after at least eight people have been killed.

The government in Baghdad has promised to address the protesters’ concerns, but many say that they don’t trust any of Iraq’s politicians.

Al Jazeera‘s Osama Bin Javaid reports:

Basra Protests: Oil Minister Orders More Jobs

By John Lee.

Protestors took to the streets of Basra for the fourth day on Wednesday, protesting the killing of a demonstrator by security forces, and demanding jobs and public services.

According to AFP, protesters also blocked the road leading to the oilfields of West Qurna, while international oil companies (IOCs) have reportedly moved senior staff out of the area for their security.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved measures to improve the delivery of essential public services in Basra province, with a focus on improving the supply of electricity to homes and businesses.

It also “instructed Iraq’s embassies, consulates and all border entry points to apply new visa and residency fees for foreign nationals seeking to enter Iraq“.

The Cabinet voted to establish a specialist committee staffed by teams from the Planning and the Construction & Housing Ministries to assess the value of resuming several incomplete or suspended projects, and instructed the Ministry of Finance to speed up the allocation of funds for projects that are deemed suitable for completion.

Meanwhile, Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi [Allibi, Luiebi] ordered “secondary contractor companies in West Qurna oil field to provide new jobs for the citizens of the neighbor towns near to the field“, and to “provide additional jobs for the citizens of Shatt Al-Arab district and the other towns“.

Otherwise“, he added, “the Ministry will take the appropriate procedures towards the companies that violates the directions“.

(Sources: AFP, Iraqi Cabinet, Ministry of Oil)

(Picture credit: Ahmed Mahmoud)

Women in Conservative Basra Seek – And Find – More Freedoms

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Ahmad Waheed.

Women In Conservative Basra Seek – And Find – More Freedoms

An influx of investors, immigration, better security and more shopping malls is emboldening females in the southern city of Basra.

Shahid and Nour al-Rubaie sit on the third floor of one of the largest shopping malls in Basra, waiting for their lunch. The two women might look innocuous to some  but for many locals, they are still an interesting sight: Two women, on their own, without a male guardian, out shopping and eating in what is still a fairly conservative southern Iraqi city.

“Today Basra is a very safe place,” Shahid told NIQASH. “There are malls like this that we can walk around. We can wear what we want in here because it is closed and safe,” she added, before explaining that in the recent past she used to dress far more conservatively, for fear of provoking the armed militia members who patrolled the city’s streets.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Basra was a relatively cosmopolitan place. In the 1990s, it started to become more traditional and after 2003, and the US-led invasion of Iraq, Basra – one of Iraq’s biggest cities – became increasingly conservative again, partially due to the competing militias that tried to take control of parts of the city, ostensibly to maintain security.

But in recent years that fundamentalist feeling has faded somewhat. Since 2008, the Iraqi government has been disarming the militias and has arrested several of the most prominent leaders.

And as the city has attracted more investment, families who have lived elsewhere have returned to Basra or moved here, and often they have brought less conservative attitudes with them.

The militias who patrolled the cities once put up signs warning local females not wear make-up or go out without a veil on. At local universities, those women who chose not to wear a veil or who wore clothes that strict religious rules said were provocative, were often harassed.

But today there are more unveiled women, more women driving cars in Basra or going shopping without a male family member. There are even primary schools with mixed classes that have been so popular that other investors are founding similar private schools.

 

Basra women in the 1960s.

 

“We have issued many more driving licenses to women in the past three years,” says Riyad al-Eidani, a spokesperson for the provincial traffic department. “This is because women now go to work or drive their children to schools. They are also buying their own cars.”

The number of women drivers has increased so much that male drivers are no longer surprised to see a female in charge of a vehicle, al-Eidani adds. “And we have actually realised that women are more careful drivers. They cause fewer accidents and abide by the law.”

There are even female traffic officers now. Basra’s women have also started doing other jobs, without fear of recrimination.

“Today we have many females who can model for us in Basra,” says local fashion designer,  Ziad al-Athari, “Ten years ago we could never find anyone to model because of tribal and community restrictions. But today we have many candidates for our shows.”

Iraqi women in conservative areas are often criticised as loose if they do anything  – such as modelling, sinigang or acting – that puts them in front of an audience. In Basra, fashion shows could only be staged in well-guarded venues at first but now they’ve become more popular and are often open to the general public.

“As a result of far better security we now see many women in Basra taking up jobs; some even start businesses,” al-Athari explains. “They also benefit from what’s going on in other countries where they can see women working and independent but still respectable.”

The first union of local Iraqi businesswomen was established in Basra in 2011.

Today all of this means everything, and not much at all, to the al-Rubaie sisters in the mall. They’re more interested in relaxing and shopping. After lunch, they set off into the mall, to look at some clothes and trinkets and then afterwards, Shahid drives her sister home.