Iraqi activist Ihab Al-Wazni on Sunday, 9th of May, became a new victim in a wave of targeted killings in Iraq, despite repeated calls for the government to bring perpetrators to justice. Al-Wazni, who was active in the organization of anti-government protests that swept Iraq in October 2019, was shot overnight outside his home by unknown assailants. Dozens of activists, journalists and members of civil society groups have been assassinated, kidnapped and threatened since the start of widespread protests nearly two years ago. Iraqi security and extremism researcher Hisham al-Hashemi was killed in July after three gunmen on two motorcycles fired at him from meters away near his home in the capital Baghdad. Unknown gunmen have also assassinated Iraqi activist Dr. Reham Yacoub in central Basra in August.
The death of Al-Wazni sparked daylong protests in Karbala that saw demonstrators block roads and bridges with burning tires. Then Sunday night, dozens of protesters gathered outside the Iranian consulate, burning tires in front of the building and setting fire to several trailers parked outside, according to police officials and videos posted online. The incident has sparked outrage at the lack of action taken by authorities to protect civilians and provide them with basic public services. The government has been under pressure to find and punish the killers of activists calling for reforms, with public concern mounting over the frequency of these attacks.
Hours after the death of Al-Wazni, reporter Ahmed Hassan was in intensive care after receiving “two bullets in the head and one in the shoulder,” a doctor said. “He was targeted as he got out of his car to go home,” in Diwaniya in the south of the country, according to a witness. Local authorities in Al-Diwaniyah have opened an investigation into the attack, according to news reports. Hassan covers the local news in Al-Diwaniyah and also covered the Iraqi Army’s efforts to retake Iraq from the Islamic State militant group between 2014 and 2018, according to his employer.
On a related note, thousands of Iraqis protested in Baghdad on Tuesday 25 of May, demanding justice for slain activists and protesters, and the rise in targeted killings of prominent activists and journalists. Two were killed as demonstrators clashed with security forces who used tear gas and live ammunition, while over a dozen injured. Earlier, demonstrators gathered in the square amid heavy security, among them protesters from southern provinces including Dhi-Qar and Karbala. Tensions there have mounted in recent weeks over the increasingly frequent targeted killings.
The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative calls on the Iraqi government and security authorities to immediately reveal the identity of those responsible for the assassinations against activists, protestors and HRDs, and to stop using violence against demonstrators to avoid an escalation of the situation.