Oil Rich Iraq Suffers Through Gasoline Shortage
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports from Baghdad.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD NOISE)
JAMIE TARABAY: Taxi driver Saif Jassim is finally at the front of the queue at this gas station in south Baghdad. His traditional white Arab tunic is no longer very white, and he gives off the odor of someone who's slept in his car for the past two days in the baking heat - waiting in line.
SAIF JASSIM: (Through translator) All the petrol I'm getting is for our generator at home. People aren't using taxis anymore because it's too expensive, so we aren't getting any work.
TARABAY: Jassim says the minimum cab fare he gets is 10,000 Iraqi dinars, about six dollars, and people can't even afford that. He's afraid the government will raise the prices for gasoline again and make things even worse.
JASSIM: (Through translator) Then I'll sell my car and sit at home jobless. Or I'll go rob someone or loot a shop, because I'm married and I have kids and I have to feed them.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR STARTING)
TARABAY: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed insurgent attacks on refineries, pipelines, and fuel convoys as the main reason for the current crisis. U.S. and Iraqi military operations along the northern border had also hampered the importing of fuel, but he said the shortage should ease up soon.
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MAYSOON MOHAMMAED: (Foreign language spoken)
TARABAY: But not soon enough for Maysoon Mohammaed, a housewife running back and forth between attendants at the south Baghdad gas station, holding up a dirty, white plastic jerry can.
MOHAMMAED: (Through translator) I'm here to get petrol. My husband is handicapped and isn't working. So I can't afford to buy it from the black market.
TARABAY: Her eyes are red, peeking out from a black albaya that wraps her from head to toe. She's been here for nearly four hours and is desperate.
MOHAMMAED: (Through translator) This government has no conscience. If they're going to raise prices, the government should help people. The situation is getting worse. Our young men are getting killed. Our children are kidnapped for money. What can we do?
TARABAY: Iraqis rely on their generators to power their lights, refrigerators, and air conditioners - especially now, when temperatures regularly top 110 degrees every day.
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TARABAY: One person smiling, though, is Kamil Khalaf, standing at an intersection tapping an empty plastic bottle, the sign many black market sellers make to let motorists know they have gasoline to sell. Khalaf was luckier than most. He bought 15 gallons in the morning and sold all of them by noon.
KAMIL KHALAF: (Through translator) I spent the night at the gas station. Now that I'm done, I'm going home to sleep. The day after tomorrow I'll come back and get more.
TARABAY: Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.
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