On Saturday, February 1, President Barham Salih named Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the country's new prime minister, nearly two months after former premier Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned amid widespread unrest. Allawi must form a new government within 30 days and will serve in the post until early elections can be held. Following Salih's announcement, protesters gathered in Baghdad's Tahrir Square and across cities in the south to reject the appointment. Allawi, who previously served as communications minister, is perceived by some to be a part of the ruling elite which protesters have rejected en masse in previous months.
Further protests are possible in Baghdad and other urban centers across Iraq over the coming days. A heightened security presence is expected in the vicinity of all protests, and clashes between protesters and security forces are likely.
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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