Thousands of Iraqis gathered in Baghdad and other southern cities on Thursday, October 1, to mark the first anniversary of the start of widespread anti-government protests over youth unemployment, service delivery, and other issues. Gatherings were witnessed in Tahrir Square in the capital on Thursday, an epicenter of the protest movement. Rallies were also witnessed in Diwaniya and other cities in the south of the country.
The intense protests of last year have been less vociferous in recent months, largely due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, demonstrators have vowed to revive the movement if the government fails to carry out reforms. A large-scale protest is reportedly planned on October 25 in Baghdad's Green Zone, with an associated general strike.
Further protests are expected across Iraq in the near term and a heightened security presence and localized transport disruptions are likely in the vicinity of the demonstrations.
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. Frequent clashes between security forces and protesters were witnessed during months of unrest. Around 600 people have reportedly been killed and thousands of people wounded since the protests began. The demonstrations were brought to a relatively abrupt halt by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although gatherings started up again in June, they have yet to reach the scale of those witnessed during the early months of the unrest.
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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