Violent protests were reported in Baghdad on Monday, February 17, which left at least nine people injured as clashes between protesters and security forces erupted. Police used violence and tear gas to disperse protesters, some of which gathered at Khalani Square, Tahrir Square, and Tahrir Tunnel.
Reports indicate that hunting rifles, stones, and firebombs were used over the last several days against peaceful anti-government protesters. This prompted the United Nations envoy to Iraq to condemn the violence and call on government to ensure protesters are protected.
Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi will postpone his cabinet appointment announcement until all seats have been allocated.
Protests may continue ahead of the announcement in the coming days amid a heightened security presence.
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.