Dutch embassy staff in Iraq evacuated over political unrest
For their safety, the employees of the Dutch embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad temporarily work and stay in the German embassy elsewhere in the city. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this. The security situation in the country has deteriorated further, and the Ministry tightened the travel advice due to the political unrest.
The Dutch embassy is located in the middle of the International Zone, also called the green zone. “It is currently very restless there; firefights are taking place around the compound. The German embassy is far outside this area. As soon as it is safe again, the employees will return to the Dutch embassy,” the Ministry said.
For most of Iraq, including Baghdad, travel advice has long been red. That means: don’t travel there, no matter what your situation. The Ministry now also gave red travel advice to the city of Basra, which had been orange before.
“The Dutch in these red areas are once again urgently called upon to leave the country if it is safe to do so. This call already applied, and we are repeating it now,” the Ministry said. “There are major security risks there. Don’t put off your decision to leave until the last minute.” The Ministry emphasized that the embassy will probably not be able to help Dutch people who decide to stay in Iraq if the security situation deteriorates further.
The Ministry also reports that violent demonstrations are happening in many places in Iraq and that a ban on being on the street applies across the country from 7:00 p.m. local time from Monday. “Avoid these demonstrations and gatherings. All access roads to and from the capital Baghdad are closed,” the Ministry said.
Minister Wopke Hoekstra of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter that he is monitoring the situation “closely.” “I sympathize very much with our colleagues from Foreign Affairs,” he tweeted. “My thoughts go out to the Iraqis who have lost their loved ones today.”
On Monday, new riots broke out in Baghdad after influential Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr announced his resignation from politics. Automatic weapons regularly fired at least seven mortar shells are said to have landed in the capital’s green zone, where other government institutions and the parliament building are located in addition to the Dutch embassy. Protesters also broke into a government palace there. Doctors reported on Monday evening that at least 12 followers of Sadr were killed and 270 other protesters injured.
Reporting by ANP