Kata'ib Hezbollah of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are reportedly holding a march from Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood to the capital's Green Zone via the Prime Minister's office in Karkh district on Monday, May 18. The march began at 10:00 (local time) and local sources indicate that protesters will enter the Green Zone at checkpoint 9 and aim to reach the four soldiers roundabout in the center of the zone, before possibly exiting via checkpoint 5. While the organizers of the march have been instructed to ensure that the protest march is peaceful in nature, clashes between the demonstrators and both security forces and secular anti-government protesters cannot be ruled out.
Associated unrest and transportation disruption is possible in the vicinity of the march in the coming hours.
Kata'ib Hezbollah were among those responsible for the incursion into the Green Zone on December 31, 2019, that resulted in prolonged demonstrations outside the US Embassy. Monday's protest is being held to honor their late former commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was killed in a targeted US drone strike alongside Iranian Armed Forces Major General Qasem Soleimani. Supporters of Al-Muhandisclaim claim he has been insulted by a Saudi Arabian television network, and associated protests have also been reported outside the channels Iraqi headquarters in Baghdad's Rusafah district.
The march also comes a day after the European Union Mission and the British and Canadian Embassies controversially raised the rainbow flag to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, causing condemnation from the Iraqi government, political parties, and militias.
Individuals in Baghdad are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all protests as a precaution, anticipate a heightened security presence, budget ample travel time, and obey instructions issued by 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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