19 October 2020
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Iraq must investigate killing, targeting of women activists: UN experts

Sunday, 04 October 2020 02:32

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — UN experts have called on Iraq to “immediately” investigate the killing and attempted murder of women activists in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, saying has “little regard” for the lives of human rights defenders.

In a strongly-worded statement, UN experts on Friday described an increasingly hostile situation for Iraqi activists, citing the murder and attempted murder of two women in Basra in recent months.

Sports coach and activist Reham Yacoub was shot dead while driving through the port city on August 19.

Lodya Remon Albarti, who led women’s marches in the city, was subject to a “smear campaign” that forced her to flee the city, according to the statement. She survived a shooting on August 17. 

“Clearly the Iraqi government has little regard for the lives of human rights defenders,” the UN experts said. “Both of these attacks were entirely preventable. Both women had received threats in the past and the state had done nothing to keep them safe.”

Women activists face “multi-layered threats” in Iraq, according to the statement. 

“In Iraq, against a harsh backdrop of war and insecurity, women human rights defenders face prejudice, exclusion by society and by political leaders, as well as physical attacks, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and even death.” 

“They face additional threats simply because they are women.”

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in August called for “urgent intervention” to protect Basra activists, also drawing attention to Yacoub and Albarti.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Yacoub’s family shortly after her murder, vowing that her killers would face justice.

At least 600 protesters and members of the security forces were killed and more than 18,000 injured over the months since the movement emerged in October 2019, according to human rights monitor Amnesty International.

Several women have been abducted and killed for participating in the protests.

“Although the Iraqi Prime Minister promised on several occasions to take action to bring those responsible to justice…for the time being, this has not been reflected in concrete terms” the observatory added.  

Protests erupted last year as crowds demanded jobs, services and an end to corruption, but quickly turned by bloody as demonstrators were targeted by militia groups said to be backed by Iran. 

Source: Rudaw

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