ProtectDefenders.eu are expressing their deep concern over recent attacks against defenders in Iraq, which are part of a series of targeted killings in recent weeks against leaders of the protest movement against corruption and in favour of basic rights and dignity for the Iraqi people. In addition, in the last few weeks, numerous Iraqi activists have been receiving daily threats to their life and safety, mostly through text messages or publicly using social media networks.
According to the information received (Click and read more)
According to the information received, on 19 August 2020, Riham Yaqoub, a doctor and prominent human rights defender who led women’s marches as part ofthe protest movement in Basra in 2018, was killed by two unidentified gunmen on a scooter while she was driving her car in the Basra city centre. At the time of the attack, three other passengers who were in the car were slightly injured from the shattered glass of the car windows. Ms. Yaqoub had been the target of a massive online hate campaign since 2018, and had received numerous threats prior to her killing. An investigation was opened by the police into this attack, but no information could be obtained as to whether perpetrators have been identified.
Similarly, on 17 August, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Lodya Remon Albarti, a human rights defender who led the 2018 feminist demonstration along with Riham Yaqoub, and Fahd Al-Zubaidi and Abbas Subhi, two civil society activists who have been actively participating in the protest movement in Basra since October 2019. As a result of this attack, Ms. Albarti was injured in the leg and Mr. Subhi in the chest. Both were transferred to Basra Teaching Hospital to receive medical care and were subsequently discharged in good health.
On 14 August, Tahseen Oussamma, an activist who had also actively participated in the protest movement in Basra since October 2019, was killed by unknown attackers with a silenced weapon in Basra. An investigation was opened by the police into this attack, but no information could be obtained as to whether perpetrators have been identified.
In light of the generalised context of killings and acts of violence targeting human rights defenders, and the persisting climate of impunity over such violations, ProtectDefenders.eu partners are calling on the Iraqi authorities to facilitate a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough international investigation into these events, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal and sanction them as provided by international law.
According to RSF’s Index, Iraq (ranked 162nd) is today even more dangerous for journalists. Iraqi journalists risk their lives when they cover protests or investigate corruption, and the dangers have grown since the start of an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests in October 2019. Journalists who dare to report the demands of the protesters are liable to be harassed, abducted, physically attacked or even killed by unidentified militias.