Local media sources report anti-government protests in the cities of Najaf, Nasiriyah, Hillah, Samawah, and Baghdad on Sunday, June 7, despite curfews being in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Protests were held for a wide range of issues, including calls for an improvement in quality of life and services and denouncing the failure of the government to provide jobs and hold corrupt officials accountable. The most significant protest took place in Najaf, where demonstrators demanding the resignation of the province's governor reportedly attempted to storm the provincial building. Security forces allegedly responded by using tear gas to disperse the crowds, with unconfirmed reports of casualties among the protesters.
Further protests and a heightened security presence are likely in the near term.
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 670 people have been killed and over 24,400 people have been wounded since the protests began.
Individuals in Iraq 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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