I am starting to learn about containers using podman that came with RHEL8.1 (which AFAIK can be used in place of docker), and have the following baby Dockerfile as a learning exercise:

# Use Alpine Linux base image
FROM alpine:latest

# Install pacakges
RUN apk --no-cache add bash gcc make

# Make a directory for source code
RUN mkdir /src_dir

# Set working directory to the same directory
WORKDIR /src_dir

# Set this directory as a volume
VOLUME [ "/src_dir" ]

As you can see, I've installed the most basic gcc and make into this container with the goal of mounting a set of source files on my container host into the /src_dir directory within the container.

I next build the container image in the host directory containing the Dockerfile:

podman build -t my_image .

I then start the container with this command

podman run -it -v /host/foobar:/src_dir /bin/bash

Where /host/foobar/ on my host is an arbitrary directory containing some arbitrary source code, all of which my local user on the host has full read/write access to. For example, there is one file /host/foobar/test.c. This then brings me to a bash prompt inside the container. I can see that I'm at the correct place because:

bash-5.0# pwd

However, I have absolutely no read/write access to /src_dir. Both ls -lh and cat test.c gave me permission denied errors. If I change to the root directory (or any other directory) of the container, I can see and access other things. Strangely, if I run ls -lh / I can see /src_dir as being owned by root:root, so I don't understand why as the container's root user I can't access anything in it.

I also tried podman inspect [container ID], and in the output I can see:

"Mounts": [
                "Type": "bind",
                "Name": "",
                "Source": "/host/foobar",
                "Destination": "/src_dir",
                "Driver": "",
                "Mode": "",
                "Options": [
                "RW": true,
                "Propagation": "rprivate"

Which suggests that there is read/write permission?

Perhaps I'm missing something obvious as a beginner, but what do I have to do so that I can run the gcc and make inside this container on the source files mounted in /src_dir so that the container essentially acts as a complete development environment?

1 Answer 1


Thanks to the people here, the solution is quite simple (but not obvious):

My GNU/Linux container host has SELinux activated, and that's why I was having permissions problems. The solution is to simply append a :z to the podman run volume argument so that this:

podman run -it -v /host/foobar:/src_dir /bin/bash

becomes this:

podman run -it -v /host/foobar:/src_dir:z /bin/bash

That's it.

  • 3
    I 've spent so many hours trying to understand the cause of a similar error on my rpi4 running fedora iot, experimenting with linuxserver.io containers. Finally I understood the problem well enough that I was able to find this answer! Thank you! The following red hat post appears to have some more information redhat.com/sysadmin/user-namespaces-selinux-rootless-containers
    – Karsus
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 21:53
  • The :z flag is not supported in Mac OS. Any suggestions on a fix for that host env?
    – Jeremy
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 19:27
  • @Jeremy but MacOS also doesn't run SELinux, does it? :z helps when the error is SELinux related, you likely have a different problem.
    – cafce25
    Commented Mar 20 at 9:40

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