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Assassinations and kidnappings haunt activists in Iraq

December 11, 2019

Outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has stressed Iraq's committment to protect human rights and the right to peaceful protest, however, activists continue to face threats, kidnappings and assassinations.

Demonstrations in Karbala, Iraq
Demonstrations in Karbala, IraqImage: Getty Images/AFP

The killings of Iraqi activists who participated in anti-government demonstrations continue to make headlines, most recently on prominent civil society activist Fahem al-Tai, who was part of the demonstrations since their early days. Al-Tai was shot dead late on Sunday in the Shiite Muslim shrine city of Karbala on his way home from demonstrations, a neighbor told news agency AFP.

Video footage from street surveillance cameras shows al-Tai getting off a friend's motorcycle when another motorcycle pulls up behind him. The rider of the second motorcycle appears to be shooting at al-Tai at least twice with a gun with a silencer, before the driver also begins shooting. The gunmen and a white vehicle then proceeded to chase down the two activists who had dropped al-Tai off, one of whom was shot in the back, a relative disclosed.

Iraq protests
Iraq protestsImage: Reuters/K. Al-Mousily

Since the start of the anti-government demonstrations in October, over 450 people have lost their lives and 20,000 injured. Amongst them are a number of activists who have been killed under mysterious circumstances or abducted and later found dead. One such example is of Zahra Ali, a 19-year-old activist whose body was found outside of her family's home just hours after she had gone missing. "The doctor’s report found that she had been subjected to electric shocks," revealed the young activist's father Ali Salman. Another young activist, 22-year-old photographer Zeid al-Khafaji, was abducted while returning from Tahrir Square in Baghdad.

"We will be victorious and our country will return, despite you. Despite the pain inside us, we will smile. Despite you, despite your rotten parties," wrote al-Tai on Facebook less than a day before his death. While there has been minimal accountability for the casualties, former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi reiterated on Sunday night Iraq's commitment to human rights principles and the protection of the right to peaceful protest as well as the rights to life, work and study.