Iraq – October 2, 2019

Published (updated: ) in .

The most significant Internet disruption that occurred in October took place in Iraq, with connectivity impaired for over a week. Published accounts (AlMonitor, CPJ, AccessNow) reported violent protests over unemployment, government corruption, and a lack of basic services in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities on October 1-2, resulting in over a dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries. In response to the protests, the Iraqi government imposed a near total Internet shutdown on October 2, apparently beginning at approximately 1600 UTC, as shown in the figures below. The figures also illustrate that the shutdown did not completely remove Iraq from the Internet. This is reportedly due to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Transportation and Communications rejection of the call by the Iraqi federal government to cut off the Internet in the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan region’s connection to international communications infrastructure is separate from the one in southern and central Iraq.

Oracle Internet Intelligence Country Statistics graph for Iraq, October 2, 2019
CAIDA IODA graph for Iraq, October 2, 2019
CAIDA IODA graph for Baghdad, Iraq, October 2, 2019

As the figures below show, the Internet disruption lasted for over a week, with measured metrics returning to “normal” levels on October 11. After a few brief restorations of connectivity on October 3 and 6, Internet availability settled into a “curfew” model, as described by NetBlocks, with access returning during the workday, and then being cut again in the evening.

CAIDA IODA graph for Iraq, October 1-15, 2019
Google Transparency Report Web search traffic graph for Iraq, October 1-15, 2019

Unsurprisingly, trends at a network level are nearly identical to the activity seen at a country-level. The figures below show measurements across three major Internet service providers in Iraq, with BGP and Active Probing patterns that appear very similar to the ones seen in the country-level graph above.

CAIDA IODA graph for AS56484 (FastIraq), October 1-15, 2019
CAIDA IODA graph for AS50597 (ScopeSky), October 1-15, 2019
CAIDA IODA graph for AS50710 (EarthLink), October 1-15, 2019

One published report explained that some Iraqis initially attempted to use VPN technology to circumvent connectivity restrictions, while those that could afford to made use of satellite-based Internet connectivity. Others queued content posts and videos within the social media and chat applications on their mobile devices, with the expectation that they would be sent when these devices were finally able to connect to the Internet.