A Statement from the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative’s Freedom of Speech Path and Civil Society Organizations
The government must find and bring the criminals responsible to justice, it must put an end to the unregulated use of weapons and protect the civil liberties of all Iraqis.
With great sorrow and grief, we, the Iraqi people together with the world outside our borders, mourn the loss of a man who was a symbol of free speech, a man with a noble attitude, who sincerely and ceaselessly worked for peace, freedom, and the rule of law. On 6 July 2020, the bullets of cowards took the life of a courageous public intellectual, the martyr Dr. Hisham Al Hashemi, silencing his voice and depriving Iraq of one of its finest researchers.
Iraqi and international civil society, peace activists and human rights defenders received this news with shock, pain, and sadness, as Al-Hashemi was an inspiration for the nonviolent struggle and was among the most prominent seekers of peace in the region. He played a leading role in dismantling and analyzing the strategies of armed groups who operated outside the law. He also contributed to the liberation of Iraq from Daesh, through his support of the Iraqi security forces. Al Hashemi helped to reveal the secrets of this terrorist organization and presented carefully researched studies that helped to clarify the mechanisms behind its work, including two books: “The World of Daesh” and “Daesh from Within.” He also wrote hundreds of articles, research papers, and gave lectures inside and outside Iraq to explain the growth and activity of jihadist cells and illegal armed groups of various kinds.
The assassination of Al-Hashemi proves that the government’s capacity to enforce the rule of law and ensure order is almost non-existent. It can regain its legitimate authority only by standing firmly and forcefully in opposition to the lawlessness and chaos of armed criminal groups and militias. After repeated and deliberate assaults against activists, journalists and writers — many of whom died for exercising their freedom of expression and their right to protest non-violently — the entire Iraqi democracy is at stake. Freedom of expression cannot depend on the consent of violent outlaws. To protect the democracy and the civil rights guaranteed by the constitution, the Iraqi government must take decisive steps to end the random distribution and reckless use of weapons. Iraq’s sovereignty is inextricably tied to ending the influence and power of armed gangs who challenge the independence and autonomy of its government
We, members of ICSSI and civil society, have carefully followed the official Iraqi reactions to this senseless and tragic murder, and what has been most striking to us are the statements issued by the three presidencies offering condolences to the Iraqi people and the family of the deceased. We acknowledge here that the Presidency of the Republic, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the Presidency of the Council of Parliament are the highest decision-makers in Iraq, and that the sensitivity of the situation calls for discretion. But the continuation of repressive methods used to silence free speech — including the assassination of Al-Hashimi — represents a decisive display of cruelty and a blatant disregard for the rights of the Iraqi people and the values upon which their democracy should rest.
It is not sufficient to provide condolences and profess to mourn. The Iraqi people want to see serious steps taken to end the use of weapons outside the framework of the state; they want criminals to be held accountable to the rule of law; they want an end to repeated security violations; and they want their rights and freedoms protected within the framework of the constitution. This is the responsibility of the executive and judicial authorities with the support of the Presidency of Parliament. From the beginning of last October’s peaceful protests until now, more than 800 peaceful demonstrators have been killed inside the squares, and dozens of assassinations of civil and press personalities have been committed outside the squares. Repeatedly, the government and the decision-makers have promised the Iraqi people to conduct investigations, uncover the perpetrators and hold them accountable. But so far, no individual or party involved in the killings and assassinations has been disclosed. Investigations of similar crimes continue to face limitations and lack of resources. Will we call on our government to work tirelessly to find and hold criminals accountable for their actions, or will we be content with passively receiving meaningless condolences?
The horrific death of Al Hashemi has sparked a wave of frustration and anger among the people which was reflected on social media. Dr. Al-Hashemi had been a voice of moderation, civility and the rule of law. The government’s inability to protect one of the most important sources of security and strategic information has provoked public outrage. The government must now take clear and decisive action if it wishes to restore the confidence of the public in its authority.
The international community cannot remove itself from this difficult and tragic situation; it too must take some responsibility for Al Hashemi’s death. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the European Union mission must urge the Iraqi government to implement the law, arrest the criminals, bring them to a fair trial, and end impunity. Iraqi civil society and international solidarity around the world confirm their position in support of any government action that will put an end to the unregulated use of weapons and lawless military groups. We stand together to protect basic human rights and call for public trials that bring criminals who hide in the darkness of night into the light of day of justice.