Thousands of protesters gathered in cities across southern Iraq on Sunday, December 22, demanding the appointment of a new prime minister. Protesters have reportedly called for general strikes and have blocked roads and access to public buildings in Diwaniyah, Basra, Karbala, Najaf, and Nasiriyah. Sunday was the deadline set by President Barham Salih for Parliament to decide on a prime minister to replace PM Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Roadblocks, other transportation and business disruptions, and a heightened security presence are to be expected throughout Iraq in the coming days as protests, spontaneous or otherwise, remain possible. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1 to protest perceived government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relative calm, demonstrations violently resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government to produce a report on who in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) was responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 450 people have been killed and unconfirmed estimates state that over 20,000 people have been wounded since 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.