Amnesty International today called on the Iraqi authorities to fulfill their responsibilities and take immediate and effective steps to put an end to a deadly and growing campaign of harassment, intimidation, kidnapping and deliberate killing of activists and protesters in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
The organization collected the testimonies of nine activists, demonstrators and relatives of missing activists in Baghdad, Karbala and Diwaniyah, in which they described what is currently happening as a “campaign of terror” and “no one is safe”, after a number of demonstrators and activists were killed, or were kidnapped and forcibly disappeared over the past two weeks. While most of them were on their way home after participating in the demonstrations. Others managed to flee following attempts to shoot them.
Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International said: “The authorities’ absolute failure to take any action over the past weeks has paved the way for this horrific new phase of a blatant and full-fledged attempt to crush the protest demonstrations in Iraq by spreading terror in the hearts of the people. This inaction on the part of the government indicates, at the very least, its tacit acceptance of the enforced disappearance, torture and unlawful killing of protesters who took to the streets to demand their human rights, and in some cases its complicity.
Lynn Maalouf added, saying, “The government’s resignation does not mean that it can abdicate its responsibilities; rather, it is still the primary authority responsible for protecting everyone in the country, including the demonstrators who should be allowed the freedom of peaceful assembly without fear of repression, as well as their terror.” Kidnapped or even shot. “
Targeted killing and attempted murder
Activists and protesters reported a series of assassination attempts targeting protesters, especially while they were returning to their homes from protest areas during the past week. Some demonstrators said that the indiscriminate targeting of activists and demonstrators had created a climate of terror; One of the demonstrators explained this by saying: “We all try to understand this pattern; but when a regular demonstrator and a prominent activist alike is targeted, we see only one pattern: terrorizing everyone, targeting everyone.”
On December 8, activist Fahim Al-Taie was reportedly shot dead in Karbala, southern Iraq, while the body of another activist, Ali Najm Al-Lami, was found in Baghdad early in the morning on December 11, with injuries to the head. Gunshot wounds. Activists and witnesses with whom Amnesty International spoke said that Ali – originally from Wasit governorate – was on his way to his relatives’ house, returning from the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
Another eyewitness told the organization that masked men in a car shot three protesters earlier in the week as they were returning from Tahrir Square to their homes in the east of the capital, Baghdad. Two of them were injured.
Another protester from Baghdad said: “They shot us, sniped us, and now they are waiting for us in the alleys and near our homes… Before these shootings started, a week passed by we called it“ nights of knives. ”We saw men and boys wearing ordinary clothes, coming to The demonstrations, as if they were demonstrators, then they start the quarrels. I saw one of them trying to sexually harass one of the demonstrators, and when some of the young demonstrators intervened to prevent him, he quarreled with them.
A protester from Diwaniyah described how he and another protester managed to flee after armed men fired six or seven shots at their car, after they stopped the car and asked its occupants to get out. He said that he reported the incident to the local authorities, pointing to the security television cameras at the site of the accident, but he was told that these cameras were defective. Officials later confirmed to witnesses that these gunmen were local police.
Incidents of kidnapping and disappearances
In the context of a pattern of disappearances and kidnappings, protester Salman Khairallah, and another protester, were subjected to enforced disappearance in the Al-Kadhimiya neighborhood in Baghdad on December 11, where they went to buy tents for protesters in Tahrir Square; Salman’s relatives said that the two men did not answer their phones in the afternoon, and at around 3 p.m. their phones appeared to be switched off. They have not received any news about them since then, although they went to the local authorities to inquire about them. They said Salman “received indirect threats about two weeks ago that he was under surveillance … but he ignored them.” Relatives told Amnesty International that they believe the two men are being held in a detention facility at Al-Muthanna Airport for questioning.
Another detainee in Karbala told Amnesty International that on December 8, masked men on a motorcycle attempted to force her into a black four-wheel drive vehicle while she was about to leave the demonstrations near the Education Square in the city. She indicated that one of the drivers questioned her earlier in the week about her fundraising activities and providing medical assistance to protesters in the city.
One protester in Baghdad told Amnesty International: “You cannot imagine the extent of the fear we are feeling now. But there is no point in fleeing. It is clear that they know where the activists live; they know where our families live.”
Another protester from Baghdad told Amnesty International: “They [the militants] are everywhere, but we do not see them; there are streets [in Baghdad] that the protesters completely avoid because there are people who disappeared in its alleys; there are demonstrators who have not left Tahrir Square for weeks for fear of being exposed. For any harm during their return to their homes. “
On December 11, a number of demonstrators who had been forcibly disappeared on December 6 were released in the Al-Sinak area of the capital, Baghdad, after their arrival in the city from Karbala. The video recordings taken of the released demonstrators upon their arrival in Karbala showed that they had bruises and were unable to walk without support. An eyewitness described one of the released demonstrators as saying: “His face was bluish, and it was clear that he had been beaten.”
The demonstrators denounced the silence of the authorities regarding the kidnappings and the attempts to kill demonstrators. One of them added, “It is inconceivable that all these video recordings taken by security television cameras did not lead to the arrest of anyone. The government has resigned and forgot, and it seems that it is still its duty to protect people.”
Lynn Maalouf concluded, saying: “The international community must raise its voice, expressing its dissatisfaction with the worrying conditions in Iraq, and seek to address them immediately, as they take a new turn that threatens further exacerbation and escalation. It must be stopped. “
Amnesty International has been urging the Iraqi authorities to put an end to the unrelenting campaign of intimidation against protesters across the country since the protests began in October. The organization documented the security forces’ resorting to the use of lethal force, including live ammunition, against peaceful demonstrators, and the use of tear gas canisters designated for military use that cause fatal and horrific injuries, as well as kidnappings and enforced disappearances, since the outbreak of the demonstrations on the first of October .