The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on May 16, is likely to come to an end at sundown on Thursday, June 14 (depending on the moon). During this time, operations in Iraq will come to a virtual standstill as Muslims gather to pray and celebrate with family and friends. Eid al-Fitr celebrations are likely to have a significant impact on many businesses, stock exchanges, and public services, which may be unavailable or operating on a reduced schedule. Festivities (and disruptions) could continue into Saturday, June 16; banks may remain closed on Sunday, June 17. As this period is typically marked by increased travel, heavy road traffic after sundown along with other transportation disruptions (crowded airports, etc.) is to be anticipated. Though no specific terror threats have been tied to Eid al-Fitr, there is a heightened risk of terror-related activity during the period, as is the case with other high-profile public celebrations.
Eid al-Fitr celebrates the conclusion of a month of dawn-to-sunset fasting and remains one of the most important dates on the Muslim calendar. Generally speaking, the month of Ramadan is historically marred by a significant increase in terrorist threats and as such there is a potential for attacks to be carried out during Eid celebrations.
Militants have carried out several attacks in Iraq during Ramadan this year. Areas around and to the north of Baghdad remain exposed to activity by insurgent networks operating in southern Salah Al-Din province and near the borders with Diyala and Anbar provinces.
Although Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi claimed victory over the Islamic State (IS) in December 2017, the group retains a degree of freedom of movement in the northeast (Hamrim Mountains), near the Tigris and Zab rivers, in rural regions of Anbar province, and along the Syrian border in the west. IS militants continue to carry out attacks, notably against security forces. High-profile attacks spur equally significant security responses, including enhanced checkpoint operations and more proactive operations, with resulting effects on transit.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to allow for additional travel time, to remain vigilant, and to avoid large public gatherings.
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.