At least 11 protesters were wounded in Baghdad on Friday, January 31, when security forces fired tear gas canisters to disperse crowds in Khilani and Wathba squares. Influential Shi'a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr renewed calls for protests in Baghdad and sit-ins near the Green Zone on Friday, in an apparent reversal of his January 25 decision to withdraw his protection for anti-government protesters in Tahrir square. The renewed calls for demonstrations come ahead of the Saturday, February 1, deadline for Iraq's president to select a new prime minister.
A heightened security presence is expected in the vicinity of all protests, and clashes between protesters and security forces are likely. Further protests are possible in Baghdad and other urban centers across Iraq over the coming days.
Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1, 2019, to protest alleged government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relatively calm demonstrations, violence resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government issuing them to produce a report on the members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 669 people have been killed and some 24,488 people have been wounded since the protests began.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to closely monitor the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings due to potential violence, prepare for disruptions to transportation and business in areas affected by anti-government demonstrations, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
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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