Mass protests are currently taking place, as of Monday, December 18, in various cities of Iraqi Kurdistan to condemn delays in salary payments and the lack of social services in the region. The Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are the targets of the protests; slogans calling for resignations have been heard. The cities of Sulaymaniyah, Kalar, Ranya, Taqtaq, Chamchamal, Koya, Rawanduz, Halabja, Said Sadiq, and Qalat Dizah are particularly affected. Clashes may erupt throughout the day, and traffic disruptions are to be anticipated due to road closures.
The KRG is seen by many as suffering from widespread corruption. Former President Massoud Barzani has been accused of using revenue from oil exports for personal gain, as well as placing family members in key government positions. Meanwhile, the KRG is pursuing austerity measures that have resulted in delays of payments for public servants and has had a negative impact on the quality of public services. An investigation into Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil industry was launched by the federal government in October 2017.
Individuals in Iraqi Kurdistan are advised to avoid all public demonstrations as a precaution.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas (with proper security protocols in place), other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.