Iraq: Authorities and armed groups continue to target protesters and activists


There is no sign that violence against protesters and activists in Iraq has abated as human rights groups continue to document daily attacks, including numerous murders and assassination attempts in the capital Baghdad as well as in Nasiriyah, Basra and Najaf, among other cities. The Iraqi authorities must take immediate steps to end attacks and to ensure the safety of demonstrators.

Numerous attacks have taken place in the past week in the city of Nasiriyah. On 07 January 2020 after 10pm a group of 15 masked people in pick-up vehicles carrying various weapons, including semi-automatic rifles and pistols, fired live bullets at protesters in Al-Haboubi Square, the centre of protests in Nasiriyah, as well as in the surrounding streets. They also burned the sit-in tents as shown in the picture above. The attacks resulted in injuries to nine protesters, three of whom are in critical condition.

In the early hours of 06 January 2020, unidentified gunmen targeted the home of civil activist Uday Al-Jaberi in the center of Nasiriyah with an explosive sound device which caused only material damage. Through his television interviews, Al-Jaberi had conveyed the demands of the demonstrators in Nasiriyah and used his Facebook page in solidarity and to defend the peaceful demonstrations in which he participated actively.

On 05 January 2020, a group of armed men opened fire on demonstrators at the intersection of Al-Baladiya hall leading to Al-Haboubi Square. This resulted in the injury of three peaceful protesters, including Muhammed Sakban, a 27-year-old who died of a serious head injury the next day in the intensive care unit at the hospital. Other protesters were moderately injured and one of them was discharged from the hospital. Local reports stated that the shooting had taken place in full view of the security forces, who did nothing to prevent or arrest the gunmen.

On 03 January 2019, a unified demonstration took place in Nasiriyah to commemorate the anniversary of the 40th day since protesters were killed by security forces on the Al-Zaiton Bridge on 28 November 2019. Photos of over 30 peaceful protesters who lost their lives in that brutal assault were displayed during the demonstration. Among those remembered was civil society and cultural activist Omar Saadoun Al-Khafaji, a 21-year-old student at the Media College and a fan of Al-Zawra’a Football Club. He lost his life tragically as he ran toward the riot police in an attempt to help an elderly man who was captured, but a bullet hit him in the head, killing him instantly.

On the evening of 02 January 2020, unknown masked armed men riding a motorbike attacked civilian activist Mortada Al-Aqabi after he left Al-Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah. He was taken to the hospital for treatment and reports stated that he is in stable condition.

 At around the same time, civilian activist Mortada Jabbar Al-Sheikh Ali was shot by an unknown armed group in the Al-Fadhliya area, south of Nasiriyah, in a failed assassination attempt.