Deadly protests over corruption, unemployment, and the perceived inadequate provision of public services continued in Iraq's southern provinces on Sunday, July 15. The protests initially began in Basra province on Sunday, July 8, and have since notably spread to the cities of Amara, Karbala, Najaf, Nasiriyah, and Samawah, as well as to the capital, Baghdad. Flights to Najaf International Airport (NJF) have been canceled by multiple carriers as of Sunday, and flights from Iran to Najaf have been diverted to Baghdad. Internet access has reportedly been curtailed across the country and authorities have imposed a curfew in areas affected by the protests in several southern provinces.
Scores of protesters have been killed and wounded in the demonstrations and dozens of others have been arrested by security forces. On Sunday, clashes between protesters and security forces in the city of Basra left dozens of protesters and at least 19 security personnel wounded; the skirmishes reportedly broke out after hundreds of protesters assembled outside the Basra Provincial Council building, with some attempting to storm the headquarters before being dispersed by water cannons and tear gas. Protesters also reportedly caused the closure of the Umm Qasr port and roads leading to oil fields north and west of Basra on Sunday. Additionally, at least 16 protesters were killed and wounded in Muthanna province on Sunday, with dozens of others arrested as demonstrators stormed the National Wisdom Movement headquarters and set fire to the headquarters of the Daawa and Virtue parties and the Badr organization.
Additional protests are expected in the abovementioned areas and elsewhere in Iraq in the coming days and weeks. Consequent transportation disruptions (including flight delays and cancelations) and heightened security measures are expected in areas affected by protests.
Notably, on July 13, protesters forced a temporary suspension of flight operations at NJF and obstructed the road to the Umm Qasr port (south of Basra). The protests - organized to denounce corruption, unemployment, and the perceived inadequate provision of public services, such as water and electricity - have been focused in the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Karbala, Najaf, Babil, Wasit, Qadisiyah, Dhi Qar, and Muthanna.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments. Travelers flying to or from NJF should contact their airline for additional information.
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.