Iraq: Peaceful protests continue after demonstrator killed in Basra
Peaceful demonstrations continue across central and southern Iraq, including the capital Baghdad and the city of Basra where several demonstrators were severely wounded. A demonstrator lost his life in Basra after suffering a serious injury in the head during an attack by the security forces.
On 14 August 2018, a protest tent, erected by demonstrators who live in Ezzedine Salim (formerly Al-Hawair) and neighbouring areas, in front of the West Qurna 2 petrol field in Basra was attacked by the security forces, who burned the tent and beat the demonstrators with batons. Three demonstrators were severely injured. Among the injured was well-known activist Harith Al-Salmi, 33 years old, who was taken to hospital where he died the next day. The medical report obtained by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said his death was caused by a fractured skull.
His death led to the outbreak of large demonstrations in the area of his residence, Ezzedine Salim, and other areas in Basra, while protests are ongoing in various central and southern provinces, including in Baghdad.
The protests erupted in the Governorate of Basra on 14 July 2018 and moved to other Iraqi cities, demanding that the government provide jobs and quality public services to citizens in addition to eliminating rampant corruption. They have also added demands to stop killing and arresting activists and protestors. In the first two weeks of protests, over a dozen protestors were killed, hundreds injured and over 750 arrested. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1912
On 20 July, journalist and human rights defender Ahmed Al-Shaibani received a death threat by text message after he covered the demonstrations in Basra, in his city Diwaniyah, and in other cities in central and southern Iraq, including Baghdad. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1922
GCHR condemns, in the strongest terms, the attacks by the security forces against demonstrators, which led to the death of Harith Al-Salmi. Once again GCHR expresses its deep concern at the precarious situation of peaceful protestors whose right to freedom of assembly is being violated, and for all human rights defenders in Iraq, including lawyers, journalists and bloggers who continue their work bravely in the face of danger.
GCHR calls on the authorities in Iraq to:
- Conduct an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the death of activist Harith Al-Salmi, with the aim of publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Protect the right to peaceful demonstration of all citizens and throughout the country;
- Immediately and unconditionally release all peaceful demonstrators;
- Immediately stop threatening journalists and bloggers covering the demonstrations; and
- 5. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Iraq and those who do their legitimate work in defense of human rights are able to work without facing restrictions, including judicial harassment.