Iraq: Third periodic report on violations during the ongoing popular demonstrations

09.03.20

Demonstrators continued to demand comprehensive reform in the various Governorates of central and southern Iraq, as well as in the city of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where peaceful demonstrations were launched. In reprisal, security forces, especially riot police and armed groups operating outside the law, targeted activists and peaceful demonstrators with threats, arbitrary arrest and detention, severe beatings, torture in secret locations, and assassination and killing. A number of children were killed in the past months. In addition, they continue to use excessive and unjustified force against sit-ins, including live bullets, hunting rifles, tear gas grenades, white weapons and sharp knives. These violations are documented in the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)’s third monthly report of 2020.

On 01 March 2020, thousands of peaceful demonstrators from various central and southern Governorates of Iraq demonstrated on the Al-Karkh side of Baghdad and then headed to Al-Tahrir Square (picture on the left at top). Al-Karkh is historically the name of the western half of the capital Baghdad, or alternatively, the western shore of the Tigris River running through Baghdad. The protesters rejected the leadership of Prime Minister Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi - who announced his withdrawal recently after the 30-day deadline had passed and he was unable to form a government – and called for a new election law, and for elections to be held early. They also protested the repression and the ongoing killing of protesters by the security forces and armed groups supporting them, and demanded that the killers of hundreds of demonstrators be brought to face justice.

On 22 February 2020, thousands of people in the city of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan demonstrated against widespread corruption and improper basic public services (picture on the right at top).

The use of hunting rifles against peaceful protesters

The use of hunting rifles resulted in the killing of a number of demonstrators and wounding dozens of others, causing various injuries, some of which are life-threatening. The hunting rifles contain cartridges stuffed with bird shot, a large number of lead balls or iron cubes known locally as "Sagam", which are sprayed at demonstrators indiscriminately, leading to multiple injuries.

On 07 March 2020, blogger Ahmed Al-Atabi posted on his Facebook page - which he dedicates to reporting news of the current popular movement in the various Governorates, a picture of his 20-year-old nephew, peaceful demonstrator Ahmed Jawdat Al-Atabi (picture 1), just before he was operated on. He was attacked on 01 March 2020 by riot police with hunting rifles in Al-Khilani Square in Baghdad. He was hit by approximately 40 small iron balls in various parts of his body, leaving him in serious condition. Al-Atabi appeared in a video after the successful operation saying, "I went to bring a homeland to those sitting in their homes and we will bring it from the mouth of death."

On 06 March 2020, peaceful protester Sajad Uday (picture 2), only 14 years old, was shot in the head and killed by riot police with hunting rifles in Al-Khilani Square, shattering his dreams of a beautiful homeland and a prosperous future. He is from the Allawi Al-Hilla district in Baghdad. A large funeral was held for him, with the participation of his family, in addition to a large number of his friends and fellow demonstrators.

On 02 March 2020, peaceful demonstrator Mohammad Majid (Roussi) (picture 3), 18 years old, was hit by 18 iron balls after a member of the riot police in Al-Khilani Square fired a cartridge at him from a hunting rifle, injuring him in his hands and feet. Despite that, he remained smiling, raising the signal of victory with his hand.

Also, on 02 March 2020, peaceful demonstrator Ahmed Hassan Al-Lami (picture 4), was shot in the face by riot police with hunting rifles, in Al-Khilani Square. He died the next day due to his severe wounds.

Students at the heart of the peaceful popular movement

Every Sunday, the protesters of the sit-in in Al-Tahrir Square (picture on the left), and the other sit-ins, wait for the arrival of students, who, when they emerge through the tunnel leading to the square (picture in the middle), vigorously shout their support for the popular protests calling for comprehensive reform and the eradication of endemic corruption.

Student Haider Ahmed Khadum (picture on the right), only 16 years old, and a student in the fifth scientific class at the Distinguished High School in Baghdad, is one of many examples of the sacrifices that students make in order to achieve the goals of the peaceful popular movement. He was an excellent student, but he needed a homeland in which to live in dignity so he participated vigorously in the protests until he was shot dead by riot police near the Al-Ahrar Bridge on 29 November 2019. One of his friends wrote, “Your blood will not go to waste!”

Targeting of civil society activists and peaceful protesters