Local security forces have locked down the city of Sulaymaniyah on Wednesday, December 20, following two days of violent protests that killed five and injured at least 200 throughout Iraqi Kurdistan.
Heavily armed police officers took the streets of Sulaymaniyah and Ranya on Wednesday morning (local time). Armed vehicles and water canon were positioned in the main squares of the two cities, where the worst of the clashes took place on Tuesday. Security forces have also been deployed to other cities of Sulaymaniyah province.
Rallies were reported in Ranya on Wednesday morning, despite the security measures, and protests are likely to continue in other cities of Iraqi Kurdistan during the day.
Public buildings and political party offices have reportedly been targeted, as protesters call for the resignation of the entire Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Further clashes between demonstrators and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Mass protests against delays in salary payments and the lack of social services have been taking place since Monday in various cities of Iraqi Kurdistan.
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 demonstrations due to the risk of violence and to keep abreast of the situation.
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.