This is the eleventh periodic report of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) on human rights violations, including during popular demonstrations, in Iraq. The report sheds light on the killings, arrests and persecution of civil society activists and protesters in Iraq.
Civil society activists in Iraq have suffered in recent months from numerous violations at the hands of the security forces and armed groups, who have attempted to prevent them from continuing to voice their opinions about the demonstrations in the country.
Despite the violations to which human rights activists were subjected in Iraq, the Iraqi government did not support them, nor did it hold accountable any of the perpetrators of violations, in a clear indication of the impunity of the perpetrators, who persist in committing new violations against civil society activists.
Human rights groups expected that violations against civil society activists in Iraq would decrease when the protests ended and the tents were removed from Al-Tahrir and Al-Haboubi squares, two of the most important centres of protests in Iraq, but this did not happen, and the violations continued.
Civil society and political activists consider that their continued persecution by the security forces and armed groups are messages to warn them against participating in the early elections scheduled for 06 June 2021.
In Part I of its eleventh report, GCHR reports on the assassinations and murders of civil society activists, political activists, lawyers and journalists, and the recent increase in explosive devices that targeted their homes, as well as other attacks against civil society activists, including women activists.
Assassinations and murders
On 18 December 2020, a lawyer who is a candidate for the upcoming elections, Abdulmoneim Rashid Al-Salmani (Photo 1), was assassinated in Baghdad, when two gunmen attacked him and shot him in the garden of his home in the Jamia neighborhood, west of Baghdad. As shown in the video that documented his assassination, the gunmen chased him inside his house and killed him.
Al-Salmani is considered one of the most prominent lawyers and defenders of the protests in the country. Iraqi forces managed to arrest his killers 72 hours after his assassination.
Assassinations of activists continued despite the end of the protests, and paramedics and prominent protesters have been killed or kidnapped recently.
On 06 January 2021, the corpse of paramedic Haider Yasser (Photo 2) was found in the river in Al-Shuyoukh market district in Dhi Qar Governorate, days after he was kidnapped from Al-Haboubi Square. Yasser, a medical assistant, is considered one of the prominent volunteers who helped protesters and provided treatment for their injuries during times of violence.
On 08 January 2021, unidentified gunmen killed lawyer Ali Al-Hamami (Photo 3) inside his home in Al-Shatrah district, north of Dhi Qar Governorate. Al-Hamami, the head of the Advocates Chamber, was shot dead when unidentified gunmen stormed his house. He was one of the lawyers who supported the protests. Government reports claimed that the attack was carried out by criminals, and was not political in nature.
However, GCHR calls for a comprehensive and independent investigation into the circumstances of the murder of Al-Hamami.
On 11 January 2021, lawyer Haider Jaber Al-Aboudi (Photo 4) survived a failed assassination attempt in Al-Shatrah district in Dhi Qar Governorate. Local sources said, “Unidentified gunmen attacked Al-Aboudi near his home in Al-Shatra and shot him before they fled, which resulted in his injuries, and he was taken to hospital.”
Al-Aboudi is one of the most prominent lawyers who defended detained protesters and organised campaigns to release the detainees. He is also a friend of the lawyer who was assassinated on 08 January, Ali Al-Hamami.
On 19 January 2021, political activist Faris Al-Maliki (Photo 5), the political supervisor of the Tishreen Central Council, survived an assassination attempt, when unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot him three times.
Al-Maliki participated in the popular movement since its inception in October 2019. On 25 November 2020, he announced in a tweet the formation of the Tishreen Central Council of peaceful demonstrators, all of whom participated in the popular movement. The tweet contained a picture from the Council’s first statement, which outlines its goals “to combat poverty, injustice and to correct the path of the political process.”
On 19 January 2021, BBC Arabic broadcasted a documentary film entitled, “The Killers of Iraq: Who Killed Hisham Al-Hashemi?” (Photo 6 and the main photo above), produced by Iraqi journalist Mais Mohammed. The film seeks to identify those who killed journalist and security expert Dr. Hisham Al-Hashemi on 06 July 2020, as well as to shed light on the plight of peaceful civil society activists, some of whom were killed while others left their cities due to serious threats against their lives.
At the end of the film, the answer to this important question is provided, confirming that it was armed militias who killed Al-Hashemi and other activists. You can watch the full documentary on YouTube here.
Use of explosive devices against activists’ homes
In recent months, armed groups have used a new mechanism to intimidate civil society activists, using stun grenades and explosive devices to blow up their homes and deliver the message to them to stop their activities.
On 22 December 2020, unknown assailants targeted the house of a cleric who is active in the popular protests, Amer Al-Khafaji (Photo 7), with an explosive device in Al-Gharraf district in Dhi Qar Governorate in the south of the country after he received a number of threats.
Activists in Dhi Qar told GCHR, “Al-Khafaji is one of the prominent clerics in the governorate who received threats in previous times from political and armed parties to stop supporting and participating in the protests, and because of his refusal, they placed an explosive device for him in an attempt to intimidate him.”
On 29 December 2020, unknown gunmen targeted civil society activist Khadim Hussain (Photo 8) with an explosive device placed in front of his house in the Khalaf Al-Sarie area in the city of Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar Governorate, causing material damage to the front of the house.
The armed groups seek, through the explosive and sound devices that they place in front of and inside the homes of activists, to push them to refrain from participating in the protests or to stop them from participating in the upcoming elections through the political parties and movements formed in the protests.
On 02 January 2021, unknown persons blew up the house of civil society activist Salam Al-Nasiri (Photo 9) in the city of Nasiriyah with a sound device. According to local activists, the attack came after a large number of threats that Al-Nasiri received warning him that he should stop participating in the protests.
At dawn on 15 January 2021, the home of civil society activist and academic Dr. Abdel-Wahab Al-Hamdani (Photo 10) was targeted by an explosive device, which resulted in material damage only to the front of his house in the Sumer neighborhood in the city of Nasiriyah. Al-Hamdani, who holds a doctorate in Arabic literature, is a popular poet and one of the prominent faces in Al-Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah, considered one of the main two capitals of the protests in Iraq.
Al-Hamdani wrote on his Facebook page right after the attack: “Good morning world, good morning safe cities, what does it mean to blow up your house and terrify your family in the middle of the night? Is language sufficient to express the horror we live in?”
Before that, on 21 November 2020, Al-Hamdani wrote: “The bare chests that were not stopped by live bullets, some paragraphs of the Information Crimes Law will not be able to silence their voices in the coming years.” Al-Hamdani uses Facebook to express his views, support the popular movement, support peaceful change, and reject corruption.
Local activists said, “These attacks are attempts led by some parties, with the aim of ending the demonstrations and restricting activists and discouraging them from demanding their rights.”
On the night of 28 January 2021, the house of an activist who participates in demonstrations in Dhi Qar Governorate, Hussain Khudair (Photo 11), was attacked with a homemade explosive device, which resulted in material damage to the front of his house, in the Sharqiya area, in the centre of Nasiriyah.
Attacks on women activists
The violations against civil society activists in Iraq were not limited to men, but also included women, who have been kidnapped, attacked, and even killed since the beginning of the countrywide protests in October 2019.
Most recently, on 24 January 2021, civil society activists reported that their colleague Amira Al-Jaber (Photo 12) had been beaten by unknown persons, but she refused to talk about the assault or the people who assaulted her.
Al-Jaber participated in the protests since their inception and used her Facebook account to promote protests and support activists.
On 20 December 2020, a paramedic active in the Iraqi protests, Intisar Nahi (Photo 13), was kidnapped in the centre of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and was released after four days. Nahi said that she was “tortured during the period of the abduction, and remained in the hospital for days.” The paramedic was subjected to severe torture by piercing her leg with electrical machines, and burning her body with fire. She was found dumped on a public road south of Baghdad, in very bad condition.
Source: Gulf Center of Human Rights