Iraq: Second periodic report on violations during the ongoing popular demonstrations
Popular protests continue in central and southern cities of Iraq with the broad participation of various sectors of the population, including students and women, despite the risks from security forces and armed groups which continue to target activists, journalists, and peaceful demonstrators. After protesters rejected Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi, the sit-in squares in several Iraqi cities, have also been subjected to violent attacks by armed groups in plain sight of the security forces, who have failed to execute their constitutional role in protecting the demonstrators. This is the second periodic report on violations during the ongoing popular demonstrations issued by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).
Iraqi women at the heart of the popular movement
On 13 February 2020, thousands of Iraqi women participated in massive demonstrations (picture to the right above) in the capital, Baghdad, and the central and southern Governorates. They renewed their support for the current protests focused on anti-corruption efforts and calling for comprehensive reforms, while also condemning the attacks and mutilation campaigns that targeted their fellow activists and protesters. The women demonstrators raised several slogans confirming the main role of women in the popular movement, including the hashtag #We are your daughters, O homeland.
In the past few days, women and girls have participated vigorously in the demonstrations and raised pictures of victims of the demonstrations, as well as banners (Picture to the left above) showing their intention to continue to participate in the protests and overcome difficulties, obstacles and abuse.
Attacks on the sit-in squares in Najaf and Karbala
On 06 February 2020, armed militias attacked Al-Tarbiyeh (Education) Square in the city of Karbala, the central place for the peaceful sit-ins (picture on the left above), using live bullets, batons, and knives to disperse the protesters and destroy the main platform. The attacks resulted in more than 10 protesters, including a girl, sustaining various injuries. The security forces did not intervene to stop the militia’s attack, but imposed a security cordon around Al-Tarbiyah Square to protect the demonstrators after the withdrawal of the militants. Among the victims of the attack is Taha Hussain Al-Shammari (picture on the right above), who remains unconscious in intensive care.
Previously, on 05 February 2020, armed militias attacked the sit-in square in the city of Najaf (photo above) using live bullets, batons, and knives against peaceful protesters, and also burned their tents. The security forces were watching the situation without interfering to protect the demonstrators or to stop the militants. The shooting lasted for several hours, as militias took control of the sit-in square and the entire surrounding streets. Despite this, the demonstrators returned in large numbers to the sit-in the following day.