Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative

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Iraq: Sixth periodic report on violations during popular demonstrations

Nine months after the October 2019 demonstrations, human rights violations are still being committed against peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq.

The number of demonstrators has declined in the past few months as a consequence of the outbreak of the Coronavirus, for fear of spreading the virus. Following the escalation of the COVID-19 crisis, Turkish and Iranian bombings in Northern Iraq, along with the failure to pay salaries of many state employees, demonstrations re-emerged in some Iraqi provinces in the past few weeks due to the government’s disregard for the protestor’s issues.

The following report, prepared by the Gulf Center for Human Rights, presents some of the most prominent violations committed against peaceful demonstrators in the past few weeks. These were committed despite the designation of a new Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, who promised Iraqis that he will seek to ensure the safety and protection of all peaceful demonstrators throughout Iraq and look to fullfil their demands.

Introduction

Larger demonstrations have been renewed throughout Iraq, demanding the civil and human rights of citizens, and during the past month, sit-in squares in various Governorates were attacked and targeted. The security forces and armed groups continued their previous approach, arresting and kidnapping civil society activists. The peaceful demonstrators held various events and sit-ins that reflected the close solidarity between them. They also carried out relief activities to support the health sector in its response to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. This period witnessed many demonstrations and protests by citizens, many of whom hold temporary working contracts and are demanding to be appointed as permanent staff in order to improve their financial conditions. Demonstrations were also held in various cities across the Kurdistan region of Iraq against Turkish and Iranian military interventions, as well as to demand the payment of employees’ salaries. This sixth periodic report by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) documents the many violations which have occurred across the country.

Killing and kidnapping of academics

On the night of 10 June 2020, Dr. Ali Mezher Al-Ghazzi (picture on the left) was to the victim of an assassination attempt by an unknown armed group. He was taken to hospital for treatment but died of his injuries on 12 June 2020. Al-Ghazi, 60 years old, is a professor of history who teaches at many Iraqi universities. He supported the popular movement and used his Facebook page to reject sectarianism, spread social justice, and fight corruption.

On 24 November 2019, Dr. Majid Ibrahim Al-Dhafiri (picture in the middle) was kidnapped near his house at seven in the morning on Al-Badalah Street in the Al-Ghazaliya area in the capital Baghdad, by an unknown armed group. Dr. Al-Dhafiri is a well-known figure in the Ghazaliya district and works at Imam Ja’afar Al-Sadiq University, where his colleagues and students have made several gathering and campaigns calling on the authorities to uncover what happened to him (picture on the right).

Demonstrators arrested and attacked in Basra, which receives solidarity from other sit-in squares

On 31 May 2020, at 2:30 am, civil society activist Jabbar Ali (picture 1) was arrested by the security forces, after he participated on 29 May 2020 in a demonstration calling for accountability for the killers of demonstrators and for improvements to public services for citizens. Dozens of people demonstrated with his photo in front of the Basra Police Headquarters in downtown Basra, including his mother (picture 2), on the day of his arrest and during the following days. They condemned his arrest by the security authorities, called for his release and demanded an end to what they described as night arrests of activists. He was released on bail on 02 June 2020.

On 01 June 2020, civil society activist Mohammad Abdelrazzak (picture 3) was arrested on his return from a march calling for the release of Jabbar Ali. On 03 June 2020, a massive march started from the central sit-in square to the Basra Police Headquarters. Protesters surrounded the building, and demanding his immediate release, in addition to an end to judicial cases and arbitrary arrests. The march ended with his release. Abdelrazzak, who is a student activist and prominent protester at the Basra sit-ins, leads a voluntary group (Adam Campaign) that provides humanitarian assistance in Basra Governorate.

On 16 June 2020, a demonstration was organised in Basra, in which hundreds of citizens roamed its streets and headed towards the office of the Parliament in the city centre. They demanded that the Parliament office be closed  after the expiry of the deadline they have given to the Basra representatives in the Iraqi Parliament to submit an application to the presidency of the Parliament to dismiss the governor who heads the Governorate’s security committee, in addition to security leaders, including the police chief and the commander of the shock forces. They were protesting against the authorities’ silence in the suppression and killing of the demonstrators over the past years. The deputies refused to submit such a request. The demonstrators protested in front of the office and were subjected to excessive violence by the security forces, who used live bullets and tear gas against them, which resulted in various injuries and the suffocation of dozens (picture 4), and the arrest of 23 protesters. The riot police participated in the suppression of the rioters, and after that a large force from the emergency (shock) regiment participated as well.

On 16 June 2020, Sayed Rahim Saeed Al-Yasiri (picture 5), the father of one of the detainees, Shahab Al-Yasiri, 17 years old, wrote on his Facebook page: “From the Basra Police Headquarters, I will not leave my place until the release of my son, Shahab, who is detained and himself alongside all of the detainees were tortured, and has had three strokes.” He continued his sit-in. Local sources confirmed that the arrested demonstrators were ill-treated and tortured while in detention at Police Headquarters, and were charged under article 230 of the Iraqi Penal Code.

On 18 June 2020, 20 detained protesters, including Al-Yasiri, were released, while the investigating judge decided to extend the detention of three protesters, Hussain Ziyad Al-Basri (Picture 6), Abdullah Tawfiq (Picture 7), and Ali Mushtaq (Picture 8), and who were prominent protesters and heavily involved in the activities of the sit-in square in Basra. On 21 June 2020 Al-Basri and Mushtaq were released on bail. On 21 June 2020, a march was launched from the Basra sit-in square to the Basra Police Headquarters to demand the release of Tawfiq, who was released on bail the following day.

The sit-in squares are showing solidarity with each other in the face of various events and are coordinating their positions on the general issues that concern citizens. One example of this is the great solidarity that the sit-in squares expressed with Basra demonstrators when they were suppressed and attacked by the security forces on 16 June 2020. In Baghdad the same day, a march was launched by Al-Tahrir Square protestors carrying candles, expressing their full support for the Basra demonstrators, and another gathering was organised in the neighboring Al-Tayaran (Aviation) Square (picture 8) to emphasise the unity of all the sit-in squares.

In the city of Najaf, the demonstrators in the sit-in square declared that they had fully stood with the Basra demonstrators and supported them.

Assassination attempts and attacks on civil society activists at their homes

On 20 May 2020, poet and civil society activist Mohammad Al-Kaabi (picture 1), survived a failed assassination attempt with a pistol in the central sit-in square in Karbala, by two persons who were handed over to the security forces. This was preceded by an attempt to detonate his house by hand grenade, which caused material damage, on 05 December 2019.

On the evening of 01 June 2020, armed militias attacked civil society activist Abdelhamza Menem Al-Khafaji (picture 2) causing him various injuries, and also assaulted his brothers in front of their house in Al-Mahawil District, of Babil Governorate. Also, these armed groups outlawed attacked the house of civil society activist Dr. Dergham Majid (picture 3), who resides in the district of Al-Medhatia in the same Governorate, and intimidated his family. Local sources have confirmed that the reason for these attacks is the call by the two activists to demonstrate to demand the dismissal of the governor of Babil. 

On 04 June 2020, the house of civil society activist AbdelKarim Al-Qarahghouli (picture 4) was targeted with a sound explosive device that caused only minor material damage, but put his family, including his children, in a state of terror. This happened despite the curfew and the deployment of the security forces. Al-Qarahghouli is a well-known activist in the city of Nasiriyah and uses his Facebook page to support the popular movement and fight corruption in state facilities, especially the health sector.

On 06 June 2020, civil society activity Weaam Al-Shaarawi (picture 5) survived a failed assassination attempt by an armed group riding a motorbike, who shot him with their weapons. The assassination attempt took place in the centre of the city of Amarah, near its large market, where security forces are deployed. As a result, he sustained serious injuries (picture 6) that required him to be transferred to intensive care in the hospital, where he was in stable condition, and later recovered from his injuries. Al-Shaarawy participated in the popular movement in Amarah from its inception, and uses his Facebook page to support the popular movement. He wrote on 05 June 2020 that we have two options, “either victory or victory.”

On 20 June 2020, the peaceful protester and health employee Tahsin Al-Abadi (Abu Asad Al-Abadi) (picture 7) was targeted with an explosive device placed directly under the driver’s seat while he was driving his car in the Al-Wahda neighborhood of the city of Al-Diwaniyah, the capital of Al-Qadisiyah Governorate. He was badly injured and transferred to the ICU unit of the hospital in critical condition. Al-Abadi is 33 years old and works for the health department of Al-Qadisiyah. He is the father of two girls, and has an artificial foot. The method of targeting him is similar to that of another local human rights defender, Thaer Karim Al-Tayyib, who was killed in the attack.

Kidnapped and forcibly disappeared activists

A number of people, including a human rights lawyer, cameraman and activists, remain in detention since being kidnapped – some as long ago as November 2019. Human rights lawyer Ali Jassab Hattab Al-Heliji (picture 1) is still in custody after being kidnapped on 07 October 2019, in Amara city, by an armed group that is known to security forces in the Governorate. Although his father continues to be in shock, he has spared no effort to knock on all doors to obtain any evidence about his son’s whereabouts, but to no avail.

On 14 November 2019, the engineer and peaceful protester Qutaiba Najm Al-Sudani (picture 2) was kidnapped after returning from work in the Dora district in Baghdad by an unknown armed group.

On 03 January 2020, at 8:00 in the evening, civil society activist and photographer Osama Muthanna Al-Tamimi (picture 3) was kidnapped by an unknown armed group. Communications with his mobile phone was cut off since then. He was kidnapped on his way home from Al-Tahrir Square after spending 72 days at the sit-in, which he joined on 25 October 2019. The security forces burned his Tuk Tuk and targeted him with a cartridge (Sagam) fired from a hunting rifle, which hit him in the stomach and required surgical intervention. Despite that, he returned to Al-Tahrir Square, demanding his rights and the rights of all people. There is no information on his current location. His family is a poor family, and his parents’ health has deteriorated after his abduction. He had received several threats before his abduction. The crime of kidnapping was recorded against an unknown person after the complaint submitted by his family was recorded in the Jamila neighborhood police station in Baghdad.

Al-Tamimi dedicated his Facebook page to urging citizens to support the popular movement and to join the protestors in Al-Tahrir Square. On 31 December 2019, he wrote, “You sleep in the street while you are looking for a homeland, so all this fatigue and cold will go.” He also documented his presence in the front lines of Al-Jumhuriya Bridge, Al-Ahrar Bridge, Al-Sinak Bridge, and Al-Khilani Square, providing support to injured colleagues. On 11 December 2019, he reported that he was suffering from various wounds, including in his hands after being targeted by the riot police forces.

His Facebook page and his Instagram account include several unique photos (picture 4 & 5) that document important moments in the history of the popular movement during its first three months. In his last post on Facebook he said, “Al-Tahrir Square is renewing the work strike and calling for a million to gather on Sunday; welcome to the student white tide.”

On 03 December 2019, Al-Tamimi released a video showing his deep sorrow over the departure of his close friend, peaceful demonstrator Qasim Mohammad (picture 6). He wrote, “You broke my back, Qasim, come back, what’s wrong?” Mohammad was born in 2002 in a two-room house in an informal settlement area and used to work in Baghdad’s Al-Shula market transporting loads every day. He joined the popular movement in Al-Tahrir Square since its beginning on 01 October 2019, and only returned once to see his parents. On 24 November 2019, he was shot in the waist by the riot police stationed in Al-Ahrar bridge. On 03 December 2019, Al-Tamimi paid tribute to him on his page by saying, “Qasim Tayyib is far kind-hearted beyond what you envision, all that he wanted is a homeland.”

On 31 January 2020, a group of armed men in civilian clothes driving a pickup truck with shaded windows kidnapped publisher and writer Mazen Latif (picture 7) and took him to an unknown destination. Latif, who owns Mesopotamia publishing house, is interested in the heritage of religions and has extensive relationships with various international historians and writers. Latif’s latest project is his publication of the Heritage and Cultural Magazine (“Nahariya”). It is more like an encyclopedia to show the beauty of Iraqi civilization. His fellow intellectuals, writers and journalists organised a solidarity gathering for him on 06 February 2020.

On 09 March 2020, an unknown armed group kidnapped journalist Tawfiq Al-Tamimi (picture 8), who reports on the Governorates for the official “Al-Sabah” newspaper, which is issued by the Public Authority for Information and Communications. Masked gunmen intercepted the car in which he was traveling after he left his home in Baghdad’s Ur neighborhood and took him by force to an unknown destination. On 07 March 2020, Al-Tamimi, known for his moderation and professionalism, posted on his Facebook page a photo taken of him with his kidnapped colleague Mazen Latif. He asked at the end of the post, “When are you coming back?”

On 19 February 2020, an unidentified armed group kidnapped journalist Raed Salam Dahham (picture 9) in Baghdad and his whereabouts remain unknown. He worked for the Iraqi and Arab media agency.

On the night of 29 March 2020, civil society activist Abdulmasih Romeo Jean Sarkis (picture 10) was arbitrarily arrested without a warrant by the riot police near Al-Khilani Square, and there is still no information yet about his whereabouts. Sarkis, 34, is a resident of the Al-Seha district of the Dora area in Baghdad. His parents are old and he has a brother with special needs.

On 08 June 2020, civil society activist Mohammad Hafiz Salman (Mohammad Model) was kidnapped by unknown people while returning from Al-Tahrir Square on the way to the Karrada area. On the day he was kidnapped, he had written a Facebook post questioning the ability of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Khadimi to hold accountable the killers of peaceful protesters and stop the armed militias tampering with the country’s security. Salman participated in demonstrations since 2011, and also actively took part in the Al-Tahrir Square sit-in since it began on 01 October 2020, where he enjoyed the love and appreciation of everyone.

On 11 June 2020, his wife, Azhar Al-Shammari, wrote on her Facebook page the following: “I appeal to the media to support me and support my husband by getting him out. The father of Ali and Sara is a great, honorable person who was demanding his rights, our rights, and the rights of his people. He was leaving his work for a homeland to live a decent life, but the result was that he was kidnapped.”

On 10 June 2020, his daughter Sara Al-Rubaie posted on her Facebook page some of the details about her father’s abduction, saying, “After my father’s disappearance two days ago my mother submitted a report to the police station in the city of Bismayah where we live… and at that time they did not accept my mother’s words when she said the government took him.”

Former judge Rahim Al-Okaili wrote on his Facebook page, “Why is (Muhammad Modil) made absent? There was no commonality between us except the love of Iraq. I loved his patriotism, his selflessness and his courage, his passion for Al-Tahrir and the youth of Al-Tahrir square.”

On 26 May 2020, a civil society activist who was a regular protestor in Al-Tahrir Square, Jamal Al-Qudsi, described his friend Salman on his Facebook page, “Our friend used to come to the square every day … and pass us one by one asking do you need anything? Mohammad Salman was bringing from the profits of his work, which is a shoe store in Al-Karrada district, food to the youth and sit-ins.” He added that when he asked him why he is doing that, Salman answered him by saying, “These young people have the last hope for me to get a real homeland, a homeland in which I feel safe, comfortable and dignified and gives me as much as I give and respects and defends me … with my support for these people I buy a homeland for me and my family and all Iraqis.”

Attacks on the sit-in squares

On 02 June 2020 in the evening, a demonstration was launched in downtown Hilla by dozens of protesters, most of whom were ministerial contract workers, demanding that they be offered permanent jobs to address their poor financial conditions. They gathered in front of the local government building in the city centre, where continuous clashes between protesters and the security forces occurred, and quickly spread to the sit-in square itself.

This was followed by an attack by the riot police forces after midnight on the main sit-in square in Hilla (picture on the left), using live bullets and teargas, wounding a number of protesters, with various injuries. A video recording of that night showed that some military armoured vehicles moved very quickly among protesters, putting their lives at risk. The Arabic tag #Babil suppressed topped Iraq’s activities on Twitter where thousands of tweets were written the next day criticising the government and calling for the protection of demonstrators in Babil Governorate.

On 05 June 2020, a gang consisting of several people armed with knives, pistols, and assault bombs burned a number of protesters’ tents in Al-Tahrir Square (picture in the middle) and also pursued peaceful demonstrator Khalid Abu Al-Iraq, who entered one of the sit-in tents, asking people to rescue him from this gang that attacked everyone, took him out by force, trying to burn and stab him with knives several times. Abu Al-Iraq was transferred to the hospital, and his condition is stable. He spoke in this video of burns all over his body and the injuries he received in the attack. His life was saved only by civil defense activist Haider Abdelrahman Damad, who responded to the attacks despite the risks posed. The next day, the same gang again attacked the protesters and their tents, but they repulsed them and forced the attackers to flee. The security forces failed to fulfill their duty to confront these attackers despite their ongoing sabotage since the beginning of popular movement, until recently when they arrested their chief and most of the gang members. The headquarters of this gang was in the Al-Bataween area, adjacent to Al-Tahrir Square, where they sold drugs. Protesters set up new tents to replace those burned (picture on the right).

Domestic violence

An innocent 15-year-old girl named Najlaa, who lived in her family’s home north of Baghdad, joined the long list of women and children victims of family violence in Iraq. On 13 June 2020, Al-Sharqiya TV channel presented a television report about her father who tortured her to death just because she went to her friend’s wedding without informing him. He locked her in the animal stockyard and began torturing her with tools he chose for this purpose. She gradually lost her eyesight, went crazy, and got tuberculosis until she died. The competent authorities must seriously work to legislate laws that eliminate domestic violence and protect children and women from abuse.

Release of civil society activists

 On 18 June 2020, a civil society activist and member of the Baghdad Student Union, Mohammad Rashid Mohammad (Mohammad Al-Nimr) (picture on the left) was kidnapped by an unknown group. Al-Nimr is originally from the city of Nasiriyah and one of the students of the Institute of Technology in Baghdad. He was released on 20 June 2020 after a massive campaign on social media calling for his release. He uses his Facebook account to follow up on issues of interest to fellow students and also to support the current popular movement.

On 28 June 2020, civil society activist and blogger Saif Saad (picture on the right) was released after four months’ imprisonment for his support of the popular movement and his opposition to corruption and the restriction of freedom of opinion and expression in Al-Anbar Governorate. He faced malicious charges under Article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 13 (2005). Saad used his Facebook account to express his opinions and publish his blogs, which fight corruption and support demonstrators.

Protesters provide relief and assistance

On 16 June 2020, Al-Haboubi Square protesters, in Al-Nasiriya city, campaigned to collect drinking water in large quantities and directed them to Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital to address the water shortage faced by patients (picture on the left). On 25 June 2020, they covered some of the medical staff’s needs in the hospital. On the same day, Al-Tahrir Square protesters sent urgent aid to the sit-in of graduate students in front of the Ministry of Finance, who were requesting they be hired as civil servants (picture on the right).

Demonstrations and withdrawal of student group

On 07 June 2020, hundreds of demonstrators (picture 1) headed from the main sit-in square in the city of Najaf towards the Governorate building to demand the dismissal of the governor, his deputies and the directors of the main departments. There have been clashes between the demonstrators and the security forces, including security protection personnel of the Governorate building, who attempted to end the protesters’ gathering after the demonstrators tried to storm the building. They used teargas canisters to disperse them, but they spread to the nearby city streets. Local sources confirmed that at least 15 protesters suffered from asphyxiation due to teargas inhalation. They were treated and all were discharged from hospital.

On 07 June 2020, a large demonstration (picture 2) took place in the city of Samawah, the centre of Muthanna Governorate, in which hundreds of citizens denounced the poor performance of the local government, and demanded the dismissal of the governor and the directors of all major departments due to the lack of their city of decent living in all respects. The demonstrators suspended the Governorate building and affixed a sign on its door saying, “Closed by order of the people” (picture 3).

The students of the sit-in in Karbala (picture 4) announced in a statement on 14 June 2020, that they withdrew from the main sit-in square in the city and raised their tents from it after they were subjected to several attacks with white weapons by some groups that continued to threaten them in order to force them to participate in their escalation plan and the path of violence. In their statement, the students affirmed their commitment to peace and rejected such threats.

Demonstrations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq

 On 02 June 2020, a number of demonstrations were launched (picture 1) in several cities of Sulaymaniyah Governorate which called for people to break the curfew imposed to counter the Covid-19 pandemic. These demonstrations were attended by low-income citizens and daily workers who face harsh conditions these days. The security forces used excessive force, including live bullets and teargas, to disperse the demonstrators. Although the local authorities announced the easing of curfews, the demonstrations continued due to delayed delivery of salaries, and rampant corruption. Demonstrations were launched in several areas of the Governorate, such as Rania, Chamchamal, Darbandikhan, and Sharazur.

On 04 June 2020, hundreds of people in the Sharazur district, east of Sulaymaniyah Governorate, demonstrated (the main picture at the top of this report) in front of the Sharazur court building in protest against delayed wages, poor economic conditions, lack of employment opportunities, and endemic financial corruption in the Governorate. Then they went to the main road to Zarayan area and closed the road linking it to the Governorate’s centre. The demonstrators, who represented all segments of society, raised banners with anti-corruption slogans such as “Coronavirus kills us once but injustice kills us every day” and “If the people are hungry this means that the government is not in safe hands.”

On 18 June 2020, hundreds of people demonstrated (picture 2) in the city of Sulaymaniyah, to protest the bombing of border areas in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq by Turkish and Iranian forces. Despite the security forces’ attempts to disperse the demonstrators, they gathered in the Salem Street area in the city, and chanted slogans condemning the Turkish and Iranian bombing of regions in the Kurdistan Region.

On 25 June 2020, a large number of residents of Sulaymaniyah, including employees, teachers and health personnel, gathered (picture 3) in front of the public park in the city centre, protesting against rampant corruption and demanding the fall of the current government. The demonstration came after the Kurdistan Regional Government issued decisions to reduce the salaries of employees and school teachers by 21% due to the financial crisis facing the region. One of the slogans raised was, “No to a change of faces, yes to regime change, and party and tribal mentality change.”  

On 18 June 2020, hundreds of citizens of the Chiladzi area of the Amadiyah District, located in the northern part of Dohuk Governorate, gathered (picture 4) in a demonstration to condemn the Turkish air strike on 17 June 2020 that targeted the area and resulted in four civilian casualties and heavy losses of  agricultural land and property and the displacement of dozens of families from their places of residence. The protesters gathered in the city centre, chanting slogans condemning the Turkish air and artillery shelling on the border areas.

On 19 June 2020, Turkish air strikes by warplanes killed five civilians in the vicinity of the town, in addition to other damages and displacement of families, which angered citizens who went out in mass demonstrations condemning the Turkish military intervention. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) forces dispersed the demonstrators with teargas and rubber bullets. Another demonstration was scheduled for 26 June, but the KDP forces cordoned off the town, deployed inside it, cut off roads, imposed curfews in some neighbourhoods, and prevented journalists from entering, threatening them and confiscating cameras.

Metro Centre for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy had previously issued a statement calling for an immediate investigation into the way the security services dealt with journalists during the demonstrations. On 03 June 2020, the security forces arrested the team of Speda satellite channel, consisting of journalists Yadkar Haji and Arian Bakr, in the middle of the Sulaimaniyah market. They were not released until three hours later. The NRT satellite team was also attacked several times by security forces and some protesters, and while the channel’s correspondent, Ihsan Saber, was doing live broadcasts, the security forces asked him several times to leave the place and not to cover the demonstrations. After the transmission was interrupted, they assaulted him and his colleague, photojournalist Mohammad Hassan, with an electric stick. Metro Centre also pointed out the discrimination that occurred in dealing with journalists, as the team of Payam satellite channel was prevented from covering the meeting of the Anti-Coronavirus Operations Room, which was held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior in Erbil, while other media were allowed to attend.

On 16 May 2020, a massive protest demonstration (picture 5) took place in downtown Dohuk, in which civil society activists, teachers and journalists participated, demanding that all employees be paid salaries and to protest the poor economic situation. Hundreds of teachers, activists and journalists were attacked during the demonstration, and more than 100 teachers, media workers and civil society activists participating in this peaceful protest were arrested. They were all released in the following days.

On 15 May 2020, an Asayish security force affiliated with the KDP which was composed of 20 armed civilians and soldiers, arrested civil society activist and teacher Badal Abdulbagi  Barwari (picture 6) in front of his house in Dohuk. Barwari called on 14 May on his Facebook page for the demonstration that started after his arrest and became a symbol of the demands of teachers and employees for their rights and salaries. The organisers tried 48 hours prior to the start of the demonstration to obtain permission from the authorities, but they were refused approval.

On 31 May 2020, human rights lawyer Khatab Omar, the superintendent of the Volunteer Lawyers Network for the Defense of Barwari, announced that, “The Dohuk Court decided to release Barwari this morning on bail of two million Iraqi dinars.” The lawyer indicated that Barwari was arrested on the basis of two complaints lodged by the governor of Dohuk against him, the first related to the accusation of misuse of social media, and the second to the accusation of mobilisation to demonstrate.

Popular protests inspire artistry

On 27 May 2020, the Allard Prize for International Integrity informed photographer Zaid Naeem (picture in the middle), from Diwaniya, the capital of Al-Qadisiyah Governorate, that his picture (on the left) was selected as a winning entry in the May 2020 Allard Prize Photography Competition. For his winning picture “Defending dissent” he received CAD $1,000 and is featured on the Allard Prize website, with a brief description and the photographer’s name, for six months. The photograph shows a young student reading a book about forensic medicine during the 2019-2020 Iraqi October protests against widespread corruption.

The same image, with a different title “the October Revolution – Peaceful Messages” won in February 2020 the first place and the gold medal in the Iqra (Read) International Photography Competition in 2020 in Muscat, the capital of Oman, in which 43 countries and 1,299 photos competed. Naeem is a university student studying law at Imam Al-Khadim University in Al-Diwaniya.

On 11 May 2020, Iraqis followed episode 18 of the series “Homeland Masks”, which was entitled “Floor 15,” where the artist Iyad Radhi (picture on the right) gave a distinguished performance which immortalised the sacrifices of Al-Tahrir Square demonstrators. He has embodied the role of a doctor who works to help the injured, who loses his life and appears after his death on the 15th floor of the Turkish restaurant building, which was a stronghold of the protesters. This episode was watched by millions of Iraqis who sadly recalled during this dramatic work the hundreds of people who have lost their lives since the start of the popular movement on 01 October 2020.

Recommendations

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the Iraqi government to take full responsibility to protect all demonstrators, journalists, human rights defenders and members of civil society, including during the Covid-19 outbreak. In addition, the authorities must reinforce laws against sexual assault and domestic violence, especially when women and children are most vulnerable during the isolation imposed by the current crisis. GCHR also calls on the Iraqi authorities to identify all perpetrators of kidnappings, torture, and killing of human rights defenders, peaceful demonstrators and other activists, and bring them to justice. The authorities must fulfill their constitutional obligations not to violate public freedoms, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press, which can be respected while protecting public health.