Protesters killed, journalists detained and media outlets set ablaze during wave of protests

Association

On 25th September 2018, woman human rights defender Dr. Su’ad Al-Ali, the head of Al-Weed Al-Alaiami for Human Rights, was assassinated in the Al-Abbasiyah district in downtown Basra after an unknown gunman shot her in the head. Her driver, Hussain Hassan, was also injured in the attack. Dr. Al-Ali was a leader of the previously documented protest that broke out in Basra on 14th July 2018. The mobilisation then spread to other cities as demonstrators gathered to protest against several issues including unemployment, lack of clean drinking water, and corruption. Security forces used tear gas and live bullets to disperse protesters. The nationwide protests continued throughout August and September.

Dr Al-Ali leaves four children behind. Al-Weed Al-Alaiami for Human Rights works to protect women’s and children's rights.

Peaceful Assembly

Demonstrators who participated in the Basra protests were arrested in September 2018, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Security forces of the Ministry of the Interior, led by the “Soqour” Intelligence Cell arbitrarily arrested a large number of peaceful demonstrators. On 13th September 2018, independent civil society activist Murtaza Safi was also arrested and on 15th September 2018, independent civil society activist Waleed Al-Ansari was arrested from his home along with other activists. Both activists were involved in the protests.

On 18th September 2018, 13 detained protesters were released including Murtaza Safi and Waleed Al-Ansari. 

Expression

During the protests in Basra, at least seven Iraqi journalists were assaulted or detained according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Journalists who were targeted included Reuters photographer Essam al-Sudani while he was covering a sit-in on Abdel Karim Qassem Square in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on 1st September 2018.

CPJ also reported that offices of two local media outlets were set on fire. On 6th September 2018, protesters reportedly set fire to the headquarters of the state-owned broadcaster Al-Iraqiya TV and Al-Forat TV, which is affiliated with the Hikma Movement of the Iraqi Shia cleric Ammar Al-Hakim.

On 2nd October 2018, journalist Saif Al Azawi was released after he was arrested on 1st October by Iraq’s national intelligence service. Al Azawi was questioned at the intelligence service's headquarters about reports on his Adhamiya News page on Facebook and about suspicions that he had been “blackmailing politicians.”

Iraq currently ranks third on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index released on 2nd November 2018, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The index highlights countries where journalists are slain, and their killers go unpunished.