Iraq: Eighth periodic report on violations during popular demonstrations – Part 1


The killings, assassinations and kidnappings of civil society activists, targeting of protesters in sit-in squares, and attacks on peaceful demonstrations continues in Iraq, including the Kurdistan region of Iraq. In its eighth periodic report, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) documents the continuing violations of human rights in Iraq, including protests calling for measures to ensure upcoming elections will be free and fair. This is part one.

The series of repeated assassinations, continuous targeting and serious threats have led many of the leaders of the ongoing popular movement, including civil society activists, in addition to journalists, to leave their cities, and a large number of them have sought refuge in the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, located in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Killing of Civil Society Activists and Demonstrators

On 15 September 2020, civil society activist Sheelan Dara Raouf (the main photo above) was killed along with her father, lawyer Dara Raouf, and her mother, retired government employee Alia Rashid Najem, in their apartment in the Mansour neighbourhood, in west Baghdad. The next day, the killer was arrested in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, with joint cooperation between the security services in Baghdad and the Counter-Terrorism Service in the Kurdistan region.

The Counter-Terrorism Service in the Kurdistan Region broadcast, on the same day, a video containing the confessions of the killer of Raouf and her family. The video shows a person named Mahdi Hussein Nasser, 35 years old, who works as a policeman in the Ministry of the Interior and within the protection force of the Russian embassy located near the apartment in which the family lived. He confessed to killing the father and then the mother by stabbing them with a knife, then strangling their daughter. He then stole more than USD$10,000 and went to Erbil on his way to Turkey, where he was arrested at the hotel in which he was staying after failing to obtain a Turkish entry visa.

Raouf was born in the Sulaymaniyah Governorate in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in 1992, and graduated from the College of Pharmacy in Baghdad in 2016, when she started working as a pharmacist at the Cancerous Tumour Hospital in the Medical City of Baghdad. Her Facebook page features a picture of the Turkish restaurant building in Al-Tahrir Square in October 2019, when protesters demanding change were filling its fourteen floors. She participated in the popular movement, where she was working as a paramedic in Al-Tahrir Square in central Baghdad during the popular demonstrations that swept Iraq since the first of October 2019. She provided support to the injured protesters and supported the protests with their ultimate goal of achieving comprehensive reform. She possessed an intelligent mind and a beautiful and elegant personality, exceptional in morals, and generosity, and had a good heart, according to her colleagues and friends who loved her and considered her among the best pharmacists in Iraq. She and her parents were buried in her hometown, Sulaymaniyah, on 17 September 2020, amid widespread popular mourning all over the country.

GCHR previously issued an appeal in which it expressed its devastation over the killing of prominent human rights defender Dr. Riham Yaqoub, who was assassinated on the evening of 19 August 2020. This was preceded by the assassination of the well-known journalist and security expert, Dr. Hisham Al-Hashemi, and human rights defender Tahseen Osama Ali (Tahseen Al-Shahmani), and many human rights activists, including journalists, were subjected to assassinations or kidnappings after repeated threats were directed against them by armed groups, as detailed in GCHR’s seventh periodic report.

On 12 September 2020, a peaceful demonstrator, Yousif Rabia Al-Kalabi, aged 15 years, died of his wounds after having been in hospital for more than three months. He was injured while participating in the demonstrations in Al-Khilani Square in Baghdad. He had a funeral on the same evening in Al-Tahrir Square, in which his friends and a number of  protesters participated.

Assassination attempts against civil society activists