Iraqi assassins in Basra murder female activist and hunt down protesters
Iraqi protesters who have been fighting in the streets for almost a year against what they say is government neglect and corruption are used to being threatened. They’ve already seen hundreds of their friends attacked and some hunted down and shot by pro-government militias. On August 18, the protesters mourned once again, a young female activist, a doctor, who was shot in Basra.
Fellow Iraqis say that the country “lost a treasure today.” People know the fear. Those who go to the squares to protest in Baghdad or southern Iraq report receiving threats. They get the threats from friends, from family, or phone calls or other means. It is made known to them: If you continue down this path you will be harmed. And they have been kidnapped, killed, assassinated, and hunted down.
This kind of mafia-like pressure campaign is directed by militias, many of which are pro-Iranian. The militias have names such as Soraya Khorasani, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. Not all of them are implicated in the assassinations. Some specialize in different areas of exerting control and threats.
Dr. Riham Yaqoub was an activist, a sports expert and a nutritionist. She was assassinated in Basra, the large southern Iraqi city near the border with Kuwait, on Wednesday, according to numerous reports. Irfaa Sawtak published a video of her doing sports training. Others say she was young, ambitious and “full of hope and life.”
Her murder is one of many recent assassinations in southern Iraq. It comes as Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is in Washington for high level meetings. Rocket fire almost daily has targeted US forces at bases, in Baghdad and near the airport. The message is clear: There is impunity to attack whoever the militias want.
It is slightly over a month since assassins in Baghdad murdered Husham al-Hashimi, a well-known commentator on Iraqi affairs. He was killed at his house in July. Activists are now being murdered almost daily in Basra by a team of assassins.
Of five targeted, two have died, notes journalist Lawk Ghafuri. It was only a week since another activist was killed named Tahseen al-Shahmani. Another woman named Ludia Remon also survived an attack.
Many female activists have been targeted by the assassins. The Prime Minister had apparently replaced the head of the Basra police the same day as the recent assassination. Journalists are also being targeted for assassination. In Basra Abdul Samad was shot in January along with another journalist named Safaa Ghali.
The impunity of assassinations illustrates how militias, many affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, are working slowly and systematically to silence any dissent. This is especially true for targeting young people and women.
The goal is to preserve the system that arose in Iraq in the last decade, a rule that is increasingly beholden to militias, clerics, and the politics of the gun.