Groups of Iraqi protesters have begun gathering in Baghdad on the night (local time) of Thursday, October 24, ahead of nationwide opposition demonstrations scheduled for Friday, October 25. Demonstrators were reportedly moving towards Tahrir Square, where security forces were deployed to prevent any further escalations.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have instituted heightened security measures in Baghdad, including erecting fortifications and increasing the Counter Terrorism Service force presence, ahead of Friday's demonstrations, which are slated to begin after weekly prayers.
The protests coincide with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government to produce a report on who in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) was responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. Coordinating committees for the protests have reportedly announced several demands to the government, including more democratic power, as well as having expressed concerns over MP salaries, the allocation of stipends to the unemployed, and a lack of support for the agricultural sector.
A heightened security presence is expected in Baghdad and other urban centers in coming days. Disruptions to internet and telecommunications services are possible ahead of the planned protests. Localized traffic disruptions are expected during the protests, and clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Demonstrations first broke out on October 1 to protest perceived government corruption, inadequate public services provision, and a lack of job opportunities. According to the government, over 150 people have been killed in protest violence. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced three days of mourning beginning on October 10 for protest victims.
Individuals in Baghdad and across Iraq are advised to closely monitor the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
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.
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