They Will Not Shoot Down Our Dream: Challenges Faced by Human Rights Defenders in Iraq Following the “October Popular Movement”




This report by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), “They Will Not Shoot Down Our Dream: Challenges Faced by Human Rights Defenders in Iraq Following the October Popular Movement”, is based on research carried out during a mission to the country in early 2022. The mission to Iraq found that human rights defenders, journalists and activists still hold onto hope for an end to the extreme human rights violations, but urgently need international support to help promote human rights, press freedom and accountability.

The objective of the mission was to develop new contacts and follow up on some cases raised in GCHR’s periodic reports on Iraq, while assessing the conditions for human rights defenders to report on human rights violations in Iraq. Since 2020, GCHR issued 21 periodic reports on human rights violations across Iraq, such as the killings, assassinations and kidnappings of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists, targeting of protesters in sit-in squares, and attacks on peaceful demonstrations, in addition to seven periodic reports (and nine appeals) on the Kurdistan region of Iraq since December 2020.

The mission to Iraq was conducted by two women who must remain anonymous for security reasons, as must all those interviewed. The mission team met with 60 journalists, human rights defenders, protesters and activists one-on-one and in some small focus groups, mostly in Baghdad and Basra (due to security issues), including activists who had fled the city to avoid assassination. There was gender balance in the interviews and focus groups. In focus groups, the mission team interviewed many activists working for women’s rights who are very inspiring, as well as youth, and human rights defenders working on minority rights. They also interviewed journalists and human rights defenders in exile online, who fled the country due to threats or targeting of their families.

GCHR is an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organisation that provides support and protection to human rights defenders in the Gulf region and neighbouring countries in order to promote human rights, including but not limited to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. GCHR was founded in April 2011 by human rights defenders in the Gulf region and neighbouring countries. It receives guidance from an Advisory Board composed of regional and international human rights advocates, including academics and lawyers.

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