Protesters have gathered in Baghdad and urban centers in southern Iraq to mark the first anniversary of the start of the 2019 anti-government protest movement on Sunday, October 25. In Baghdad, protesters began gathering on Friday, October 23, with a small protest reported in Tahrir Square on Saturday, October 24. However, large crowds are expected in and around Tahrir Square on Sunday, with reports of minor clashes between protesters and security forces reported on Sunday morning in Allawi Square. Local sources report that the situation in Allawi Square has since calmed. Highway 1 has reportedly been blocked to prevent demonstrators from throughout Iraq reaching Baghdad. Other protests have been reported in seven other Iraqi governorates, including Babil, Basra, Najaf, Maysan, and Wasit.
Protests began in October 2019 with people demanding an end to government corruption and an increase in living standards, but quickly grew to demand total government reform. While they have largely ceased due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, organizers in Baghdad expect Sunday's rally to be particularly well attended, with people reportedly traveling from throughout Iraq to take part. Security has been increased in the capital, and concrete barriers have been erected in Tahrir Square. A significant security presence has been reported in the Baghdad International Zone (Green Zone) to prevent protesters from entering. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi issued a warning to participants to remain peaceful on Saturday, vowing to protect demonstrators should that remain the case but stating that security forces would respond to provocation.
A heightened security presence is to be expected near protest sites. Clashes between security forces and protesters cannot be ruled out. A disruption to transportation and business is likely in the vicinity of protests.
Those in Baghdad are advised to monitor the situation, adjust travel itineraries and avoid unnecessary overland movement in the immediate term, avoid the vicinity of any demonstrations, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
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